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On the Shelf 183: Mount Eerie
Phil Elverum is one of my most favorite "discoveries" of the last 10 years. Specifically 2008's Lost Wisdom which introduced me to his band Mount Eerie and his previous project The Microphones.

Elverum is much loved by the indie elite, but it's a rare case where I am as much onboard. Elverum's trade is lo-fi music, and it is a genre of art that I usually am fanatical about or pass on.

There is a certain rock element that blends in from 90s influences like Erics Trip and Flying Saucer Attack which is what sets him apart for me.

The new album A Crow Looked at Me comes with much fanfare but a sad background- the passing of Phil's wife artist/musician Genevieve Castree last year at age 35. Genevive gave birth to the couple's son in 2015 and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly after.

Which makes this very much like Nick Cave's "Skeleton Tree" and other similar releases. This is the type of album Big Indie will fete at the end of the year, because they love this kind of story, but it's also a very difficult listen. It will undoubtedly have a cult following like records like Tim Buckley's "Greetings from LA".

Still, it is so raw that it's affecting. Cave's record is sad, but he still mixes his message with metaphor and poetry. On this record, Elverum's lyrics sound like a journal. He talks about throwing out his wife's toothbrush and clothes, and other daily activities that take a somber tone after the death of a loved one.

His music has always been similar to the sound critics call 'sadcore' or 'slowcore'- similar to Bill Callahan, Will Oldham, Iron and Wine, and others in that category, and that's on a good day. The album reminds me of Callahan's Smog records, but even on those very raw records, there is a hint of wit and humor.

There is no hint of irony or disguise in metaphor. It is to Elverum's credit, that he is a musical genius that indeed this is listenable at all. As raw as the emotion is (and sometimes bringing to mind Wilde's quote about bad poetry coming from genuine feeling), the feeling is genuine, but it's ultimately listenable.

That even means repeat listens, though I don't know how much of this record I would want to revisit. Even as sad records go, this is pretty desolate. Credit to Elverum to work through his pain through art, and his genius does shine through. This is great, but this is a tearjerker.


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