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Sadness personified in song

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From ants getting squashed on the ground by a busy man’s boot to the elderly woman whose family waits by her bedside for the heart monitor to flatline, every creature will eventually die, and part of the human condition is grieving over a loved one’s death.

This, in part, is the message behind Mount Eerie’s latest album “A Crow Looked at Me.”

More specifically, the album serves as a means of communicating the raw emotions Phil Elverum, who makes music under the moniker of Mount Eerie, has latched onto since his wife’s death last year at 35 due to pancreatic cancer.

Each song paints vivid imagery of how Elverum is adjusting to the aftermath of his wife dying, and he uses the second person to address his deceased wife throughout the album.

Themes explored in the album center around various questions he has for his wife now that she has died or tasks or places Elverum has to go now his wife, the person that would have gone with him before, has died.

Its opening track “Real Death” begins by stating “death is real,” a tone-setting phrase that’s repeated throughout the album.

The song also mentions how a week after his wife died, she received a package in the mail, and it was a backpack for their daughter who was born the year before she died, and upon noticing this, Elverum “collapsed there on the front steps and wailed.”

The rest of the tracks follow the same pattern. Elverum references something monotonous like taking out the upstairs bathroom garbage as he does in “Toothbrush / Trash” and it leads him into an existential crisis of what life without the woman he loves is like.

On “Seaweed,” Elverum says his wife has been dead for 11 days, as he ventures to the site where they had planned on building a house. While he’s there, he poses rhetorical questions to his late wife about animals or flowers that she may have liked because he can’t remember, and he realizes he’ll never know.

He addresses all of the songs to his wife, Genevieve, aside from the final track “Crow” which is to his daughter. On it, Elverum contemplates if the bird in his daughter’s dream could be her mother.   

From beginning to end, “A Crow Looked at Me” tells the harrowing tale of a hollowed man who must grasp at anything to make sense of his wife’s death. Elverum creates true beauty out of the macabre.

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University of Southern Indiana's student publication
Sadness personified in song