MAGNET’s #22 Album Of 2017: Mount Eerie’s “A Crow Looked At Me”

“Death is real/Someone’s there, and then they’re not/It’s not for singing about/It’s not for making into art.” Those are the first words on Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, the saddest album of this, and probably any, year. Those lines are as true as they are false, and they are a perfect distillation of this record. Phil Elverum, formerly of the Microphones, has turned the reality of the early death of his wife, Geneviève Castrée, into raw, guileless, artful songs. The listening experience is intrusively personal, in the mode of, say, Mark Kozelek (but more empathetic by far). A Crow Looked At Me is full of heartbreaking details: a package arrives for their young daughter, sent by her mother before she died, and the speaker breaks down on the stairs and cries; clothes need to be given away and underwear discarded; the world is thrown into sharp relief by absence; chores that were once shared are now a father’s burden. The close-mic’ed vocals for the words that come in tumbling lines add to the whispery intimacy, and the understated arrangements—usually little more than a resonant acoustic guitar and perhaps a few piano lines—enhance the stark emotions. A Crow Looked At Me is such a painful album that it’s not one to listen to often, but it’s an impressive work of art. —Steve Klinge