It’s taken me more than a week to listen to Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me. It’s a daunting, emotional but ultimately enriching album. It deserves your time.
Mount Eerie is the solo-project of musician Phil Elverum. His wife, artist Geneviève Castrée, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four months after their first child was born. She died a year later. A Crow Looked at Me is about her death.
The resulting ten songs are a sparse, humbling meditation on death and grief. Death is a popular topic for artists with good reason: it’s powerful, it’s intimidating, and it feels like the sort of thing that should add meaning to whatever you’re creating. But, if you don’t approach it with care, it can feel cheap or hackney. A plot point.
That’s not the case with Crow. Elverum doesn’t go looking for meaning or metaphor in Castrée’s death. Instead, the songs are more like a diary, describing his experiences and feelings and thoughts. It feels counterintuitive, but more specific you get in a piece of writing, the more relatable it will be.
That’s the case here: Elverum’s reflections are entirely his own. And, because of it, they’re devastating.
My partner and I listened to the first three songs on Crow together earlier in the week. In the album’s opener, “Real Death”, describes a moment where, a week after Castrée’s death, a package arrives for her. It was a surprise for their daughter:
A backpack for when she goes to school a couple years from now
You were thinking ahead to a future you must have known deep down would not include you
I just stared at the roof as I heard my partner get choked up.
It’s dumb, and I don’t want to learn anything from this
I love you
We turned the album off and talked about the song. We listened to the next two while holding each other on the couch. And we sat together in silence for a time after the songs ended.
There was nothing else we could do.
Listen to A Crow Looked at Me Apple Music. You can also add kites can’t jive: the playlist to your library to never miss an album of the week. 🎵