Review: Mount Eerie – ‘A Crow Looked At Me’

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

mount eerie

Let’s talk about death. I am not going to hold back anything, and I will warn any that read that this review was written through layers of tears.

It is a subject more grim than most are willing to be comfortable with and one that I am horrified of. The subject rips into the heart of many and tears it up. The very life of someone is just fucking gone. It also happens to be the subject of Mount Eerie’s latest release The Crow Looked At Me. As a subject, this review will not try and compare the feelings of death I have had vs. what Phil Elverum feels. There is no comparable emotion to how one deals with grief and there is no loss that is every quite the same across the spectrum of life.

Instead, this review will focus on the medium of how Elverum documented his feelings about death, especially in a circumstance that many would never want to be in.

Context: Phil Elverum and his wife had a child together, and soon after she passed away, leaving the singer/producer/songwriter with their child to continue to raise and only the memory of her to remain. From that description alone I knew how challenging this record would be to hear. What I did not expect was how poetically descriptive it was, without ever having to scream out the emotions.

Much of Mount Eerie’s soundscape is minimalist, with Elverum up close and personal, bearing a guitar and a voice. The entire album of The Crow Looked At Me reads like a blunt diary entry, detailing the humanity of dealing with a situation like this. There is no cryptic eulogy, instead an individual trying to process everything while feeling haunted everyday. “Ravens” rings out like a bleeding heart from the very room that Elverum’s wife passed away in — by the way, he recorded the album in that very room. That is love and  there’s nothing left unsaid as the lyrics wind through the excitement of passing on new life only for the mother to whittle away soon after. As Elverum is carrying the ashes of his wife he is excited to tell her, but remembers the very lyrics of “Death Is Real” and that the presence of his beloved is no more. Even then, Elverum takes the belief that he can still dive into new areas of life with her, finally ridding of the ashes but not the feeling of loss.

The descriptors embedded in the natural senses of The Crow Looked At Me help bring the album’s story to a different corner of life. “Forest Fire” remembers different smells, sights and whispers of Elverum’s wife still alive vs. the present, with death becoming personified through “The grind of time I’m not keeping up with, the leaf on the ground pokes at my slumbering grief walking around severed lumbering.”

Alright, I have to say, “Swims” is one of the most heart wrenching songs created, with the lyrics recounting the final moments of life and how close that can be for anyone. The description of the passive image of a deceased mother to a child unknowing is a heartbreaking image to transcend through music, and I don’t think there is any other comparable feeling that can be put into this page. “Chasm” brings to life the doubt of if people want to hear it anymore, and if the stories and memories mean anything to anyone else, even hearing the voice of Elverum crack as he reignites the lyric “death is real.”

It’s easy to read and hear how simple tasks become a daunting process when presented with such a hollow existence. The fact that The Crow Looked At Me maintains its composure is truly a piece of art in itself. There is no real way to describe how this album ties emotions together, but “When I Take out the Garbage at Night” and “Toothbrush/Trash”present the harrowing experience in the minutia of things on a do list. What makes Mount Eerie’s encounter with death so haunting is that it never really ends. Even though there are marks of time on the record of where the singer is, “Crow” closes the record with a metaphor of their child and a crow — dreaming of a symbol of death, locking in the fact that not everything can escape its grasp and it never really exits politely either.

A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie may not be the most inventive record sonically, but what makes the takeaway so vivid is the reminder of what Elverum lenses the album through. Grief is a different process for every person, but to craft this ode is Mount Eerie’s way of coping, and that’s an art form in itself.

Purchase A Crow Looked At Me here

– Sean Gonzalez