Sadness is one of the purest emotions we can feel as a human. The other is love. When the two unfortunately fall together, the whole world can fall apart. Indie rock artist Mount Eerie knows what it feels like to feel such tragedy. He shares the heartbreaking tale of his late wife in A Crow Looked At Me, emptying his soul in a profound and truly heart-rending way.
In his excerpt describing A Crow Looked At Me, Mount Eerie, or Phil Elverum explained his decision to lay out his most fragile thoughts within the songs on the album: "My internal moments felt like public property. The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea leftover from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now, and these songs poured out quickly in the fall, watching the days grey over and watching the neighbors across the alley tear down and rebuild their house. I make these songs and put them out into the world just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known."
Losing someone to cancer, let alone your wife and your child's mother, is something that can leave you and anyone who listens to your story crushed beyond belief. It quickly becomes apparent in A Crow Looked At Me just how that affected Elverum. It is introduced by the slow burning 'Real Death,' kicking the record on an ironically sweet note, as if it were trying to stay positive. But as the narrative of the song proceeds and Elverum enters the room where his wife died, "all fails, my knees fail, my brain fails, words fail." The solemn admittance of her death quickly turns into a passionate track about the emptiness she left when she died. That tragedy is amplified in 'Seaweed,' which introduces a side of the story you might not have considered: "Our daughter is one and a half / You have been dead eleven days." This song recalls the dreams the young family had but never got to live out, in harrowing detail.
The themes of self-hate and utter depression run deep in this record, but not necessarily in a way that seeks to crush you. It has a distinct indie rock and folk sound you can find in other albums, but something about every delivery sounds so defeated and lost that makes it unique. The ethereal sounds of the guitars in 'Ravens' sound peaceful above Elverum's somber, pained voice as he paints vivid pictures of every event. This song brings the emptiness of life into the picture, an idea sung of in other songs like 'Emptiness Pt. 2.' Other songs tackle the hole in his life, and how every day things are now some of the saddest, like grocery shopping in 'My Chasm' and housekeeping in 'When I Take Out The Garbage At Night.' And you can't help but feel devastated at the lines "Today our daughter asked me if mama swims / I told her yes she does / and that's probably all she does now" in 'Swims,' and the connection to the couple's counselor who died around the same time.
Sadness isn't the only thing this album is out. There's anger laced subtly into some tracks' tones. 'Swims' feels a bit angry, as sad as it is, as if to yell at the world and scream "Why?" 'Soria Maria' is the same, but in a slightly more audible way. The sad song slowly moves on, distorted guitar joining in as if it was was the rage bubbling underneath all of the sadness. No sadness can pass without this sense of self-pity and self-loathing, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's human nature. Closing track 'Crow' takes all this sadness, anger, and loss and packs it into one final, heartbreaking track as Elverum sings above an acoustic guitar (and nothing but) about his wife's dream about a crow, as if it were foreshadowing her death. The anger has left at this point, and all that's left is that hollow body he lives his life in now that she is gone.
Mount Eerie shared his heartbreaking tale in A Crow Looked At Me, and it's as devastating as you can expect. The amount of pain he endured from this loss in unimaginable, and that burden is with him forever. But what he did was turn that pain into art that allows every listener to connect to him and feel that pain. It translates beautifully, and his love for his wife is not immortalized not only within his heart, but also within every one who listened to this record. These are real emotions that will never lose their power.
Favorite Tracks: Swims, Soria Moria, Crow, Seaweed
Least Favorite Track: Toothbrush/Trash
Rating: 91 / 100
Buy or listen to A Crow Looked At Me here: