Phil Elverum is the man behind both Mount Eerie and The Microphones, two very big Indie music projects that have earned him a place in the Indie hall of fame if there is one. Most of his work is early 2000’s onward, and although they were all highly praised I was never really a fan. Something intangible was just not there and I never got hooked into his music. Despite all that I decided to give this album a try, and although it was a cathartic experience (as I imagine the writing/recording of this album was), I don’t think my opinion has changed. A Crow Looked at Me is less an album as it is a dedication to Elverum’s late wife Geneviève Castrée, who passed away in 2016 due to cancer.
All of the songs on this album are as intimate as you can get: the instrumentation is minimal and the lyrics are as blunt as possible- reminiscent of Sun Kil Moon’s Benji (2014). Phil is more talking than he is singing, and even starts off the album saying that “death is real” (a repeated phrase) and it’s not for singing about or making into art. The poetry here is relatively abandoned as he pours out his heart, aching with the loss of his wife. The lack of flowerly language really hammers in the reality and inevitability of loss. Some of the most painful moments in her passing stick with you, like when he gets a package addressed to her – it’s a backpack for their daughter when she grows old enough to go to school. The look on her face as she’s struggling to stay alive, the pictures of her in the house, her ashes – this all is an immense burden that’s hard to even listen to. He even goes into how he tends to kill the atmosphere of a room by bringing her up unconsciously.
I don’t know if I would listen to this album ever again, but if I did I think it would be after someone close to me passes on. It’s beautiful, but incredibly dark and heavy on the heart. I grieve with him, and I feel like I know more about him and her than some of my friends. I can’t say if I would recommend this album to anyone, since it’s so hard to listen to and get through. Even when someone passes in your life this might not be the album to go to, it might be just too much. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to feel all this or not.