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Indie hero Phil Elverum shows us his ravaged heart on Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me

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On June 1, 2016, singer-songwriter Phil Elverum, who records somber, wispy antifolk as Mount Eerie, launched a GoFundMe page to benefit multidisciplinary artist Genevieve Castree Elverum (née Gosselin), his wife since 2003. The couple, who lived in the quiet seaside town of Anacortes, Washington, hoped the money would help cover the costs of treating Genevieve’s inoperable pancreatic cancer; she died on July 9. Just shy of nine months later, Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.) came out, and it reflects Elverum’s first days and weeks without his wife, her death infiltrating every empty space and coloring every surface. Pop music has no shortage of material about death—musical balm to console us through our lowest moments. A Crow Looked at Me is more a document of Elverum’s grief. He fleshes out his otherwise unfathomable sadness with blunt descriptions of the everyday. The weeks following Genevieve’s passing, described in “Real Death,” are made hollow by her absence, which renders language useless and art dumb—though music, once enough time had passed, obviously provided Elverum with a way to view an experience that’s changed everything in his world. The quiet, acoustic melodies on this record can feel like an afterthought in comparison with Elverum’s lyrics, whose simple, evocative language carries great weight—in part by avoiding the facile formulas that drain the vitality out of our discussions of grief. The music instead evokes the relative calm of the world around him, which moves on indifferent to his loss.   v

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