I want to start this by say that “A Crow Looked at Me” by Mount Eerie is not a normal album. It’s not an album that someone can enjoy in the way that they would enjoy any other album. But before I get into the real content of the album some context is important. Mount Eerie is Phil Elverum’s solo neo-folk project, previously called The Microphones. Phil is a prolific singer-songwriter who has put out some of the most influential music in the underground indie and folk scenes. “A Crow Looked at Me” is his most recent project and is a concept album about his wife’s death almost a year ago. Phil’s wife died in July 2016 from cancer, which caused Phil to shut himself off from the world so he could cope with her death, and so was born “A Crow Looked at Me”.
Lyrically, the album is incredibly straightforward. Everything is stated plainly and clearly and there are very few metaphors. To call Phil’s delivery “singing” would not be full accurate, it’s more like he’s reading out of a diary in a sing-songy voice. He delivers his words with a heaviness and exhaustion in his voice and it sounds like every word causes him physical pain. There are points on the record where his voice cracks and it sounds like Phil is about to breakdown and start crying in the middle of a song. Since the instrumentation is so sparse on the album, Phil’s vocals are really what carries the emotion. Most of the tracks consist only of guitar, singing, and some hard to place sounds in the background, which is very typical of a Mount Eerie Album.
The first track on the album, Real Death, immediately sets the mood of the entire album with the line “Death is Real/ Someone’s there then they’re not/ And it’s not for singing about/ It’s not for making into art”. Phil stating to his listeners that he did not try to turn his wife’s death into a vessel for artistic expression, he wants to make it clear how devastating the death of someone close to you can be. Phil also mentions his daughter quite a bit, like in the song Swim where Phil’s daughter asks him “if mama swims” and he responds with “Yes, she does and that’s probably all she does now”. It’s segments like this where it’s clear that Phil, who is still struggling to cope with his wife’s death, now has to explain it to his young daughter who has never had to deal with death.
Overall, this album was very difficult to listen to. It so clearly transfers Phil’s raw emotion to the listener. Every track is painful and strained and makes the listener feel like their heart is getting ripped out of their chest. It’s a reminder to everyone that death is real, death hurts, and sometimes it changes you forever. This album is essentially perfect, and I never want to listen to it again.