Every so often tragedy demands art. It’s happened again and again in pop culture, and namely because art is such a divine medium for euphoria, nirvana, redemption, you name it. Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter and producer Phil Elverum is no stranger to such escapes, having prolifically recorded under both The Microphones and Mount Eerie, and his complex and expansive catalogue speaks to the power of art and creation.
However, his forthcoming album under Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked At Me, may be his most vital collection yet. Last July, Elverum’s wife, illustrator and musician Geneviève Castrée, passed away from a year-long battle with advanced pancreatic cancer. Prior to the diagnosis, the two had just welcomed a new baby. It’s a terrifying tragedy and one that adds an unquestionable depth to Elverum’s latest collection of songs, specifically opening track “Real Death”, which he’s prompted with a personal statement:
“Why share this much? Why open up like this? Why tell you, stranger, about these personal moments, the devastation and the hanging love? Our little family bubble was so sacred for so long. We carefully held it behind a curtain of privacy when we’d go out and do our art and music selves, too special to share, especially in our hyper-shared imbalanced times. Then we had a baby and this barrier felt even more important. (I still don’t want to tell you our daughter’s name.) In May 2015 they told us Geneviève had a surprise bad cancer, advanced pancreatic, and the ground opened up. ‘What matters now?’ we thought. Then on July 9th 2016 she died at home and I belonged to nobody anymore. My internal moments felt like public property. The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea leftover from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now, and these songs poured out quickly in the fall, watching the days grey over and watching the neighbors across the alley tear down and rebuild their house. I make these songs and put them out into the world just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known.
DEATH IS REAL could be the name of this album. These cold mechanics of sickness and loss are real and inescapable, and can bring an alienating, detached sharpness. But it is not the thing I want to remember. A crow did look at me. There is an echo of Geneviève that still rings, a reminder of the love and infinity beneath all of this obliteration. That’s why.”
Listen to “Real Death” below:
A Crow Looked At Me lands March 24th via P.W. Elverum & Sun. The album artwork and full tracklist are below.
A Crow Looked At Me Tracklist:
01. Real Death
04. Forest Fire
06. My Chasm
07. When I Take Out The Garbage At Night
08. Emptiness pt. 2
10. Soria Moria