Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me

Released 2017 on PW Elverum & Sun
Reviewed by Separator, 31/03/2017ce

Since the start of 2016, it feels to me like death has been the focus of an extraordinarly large amount of rock albums. David Bowie released the monumental 'Blackstar' only a few days before his death. Leonard Cohen stated "I am ready to die" in an interview and then released the album 'You Want It Darker' only a few months before his death. Nick Cave reckoned with the untimely death of his son on 'Skeleton Tree', the album that turned out to be my favorite of 2016.

Somewhere in between the releases of all of these albums, on July 9th 2016, Geneviève Castrée Elverum, wife of Phil Elverum, a musician who has been recording under various aliases (The Microphones, Mount Eerie) since the late 1990s, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 35. She left behind an infant daughter and a husband who had loved her for 13 years. Now, when something like that happens to a man, you might expect him to want some time off to deal with his grief. But no. In a stunningly brave move, Elverum gives us a vivid, heartwrenching insight into his mind during the first six months after her death on 'A Crow Looked At Me'.

Paraphrasing Anthony Fantano in his recent review of the album, listening to this album is hardly entertainment. On the opening track "Real Death", Elverum seems to contradict himself:

"Death is real;
someone's there and then they're not.
And it's not for singing about,
it's not for making into art."

The thing is though, after listening to the album it doesn't feel like a contradiction to me anymore. This album doesn't feel like art, it feels like a diary. In the same song he references receiving a package addressed to his dead wife one week after her death. It contained a backpack for their daughter, for when she goes to school a few years from now. This event, and Elverum realizing that she was planning ahead for a future she knew she wouldn't be there to experience, causes him to fall to his knees and wail. He then closes the song with this lyric:

"It's dumb,
and I don't want to learn anything from this.
I love you."

This was only the first two and a half minutes of the album. I could describe the rest in similar detail, but I think it's best you experience it yourself. As far as I'm concerned it blows all of the albums I mentioned at the beginning out of the water in terms of sheer emotional impact. Stay strong, Phil.

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