A Crow Looked at Me

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A Crow Looked at Me
Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 24, 2017 (2017-03-24)
RecordedAugust 31 – December 6, 2016
Genre
Length41:30
LabelP.W. Elverum & Sun
ProducerPhil Elverum
Mount Eerie chronology
Sauna
(2015)
A Crow Looked at Me
(2017)
Now Only
(2018)
Singles from A Crow Looked at Me
  1. "Real Death"
    Released: January 18, 2017
  2. "Ravens"
    Released: February 15, 2017

A Crow Looked at Me is the eighth studio album by Mount Eerie, the solo project of American musician Phil Elverum. The album is a concept album about the death of Elverum's wife, the cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée;[1] the album was released on March 24, 2017.

Background and composition[edit]

In 2015 Phil Elverum's wife, the Canadian artist Geneviève Castrée, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four months after the birth of their first child. Castrée died at their home on 9 July 2016.[2] Taking inspiration from the Gary Snyder poem "Go Now",[3] Elverum realised that he did not have to find any meaning in Castrée's death but could write songs that described the experience,[4] he also found inspiration in the work of Julie Doiron, Sun Kil Moon and Karl Ove Knausgård.[5] Elverum wrote the songs over a six-week period[6] starting in September 2016.[7] Utilising some notes that he had written during Castrée's illness and treatment,[7] Elverum wrote the lyrics down longhand on her paper[8] and recorded the songs in the room where she died using an acoustic guitar, one microphone and a laptop computer[7] as well as some of Castrée's own instruments.[9] Since he had become the primary carer for his daughter, Elverum recorded the songs at night while his daughter was asleep or during times when she was visiting friends,[7] he stated that the 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" and that he made the record and released it "just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known."[10]

The lyrics are delivered in a speak singing style and deal with Castrée's illness and death and Elverum's ensuing grief;[11][12] the words take the form of a diary and Elverum references specific dates of events in certain songs.[13] Each song refers to Castrée, sometimes directly by name,[8] with the exception of the final song "Crow" which is addressed to their daughter.[14] Opening track "Real Death" begins with the words "death is real" and this theme continues throughout the record;[15][14] the song also refers to Elverum opening mail packages addressed to Castrée that were delivered after her death.[14] Elverum discusses scattering Castrée's ashes on "Seaweed".[14] "Ravens" describes Elverum giving away Castrée's clothes.[14] The lyrics to "My Chasm" describe Elverum's difficulty in talking about his loss in public.[14] Many of the lyrics feature references to nature[13] with one reviewer noting that "tragedy hasn't stopped [Elverum] from noticing the world; if anything, it seems to have pried his eyes open for good."[16] Musically, the songs feature sparse instrumentation with acoustic guitar and simple percussion[17][12] which Elverum referred to as "barely music".[16] "Soria Moria" features a metal guitar solo.[15] Elverum wanted to release the album quickly, so he used minimal production.[18]

Release[edit]

Elverum considered not releasing the album at all, or changing his band name entirely but discounted these ideas,[19] he had originally planned for a small scale release of the record on his own website, but as the album took shape he felt that it was good and wanted it to reach a wider audience.[20] On January 5, 2017, Elverum announced that he will "re-enter the world," go on tour, and release a new album;[21] the next day, Elverum played his first concert since September 2014 at a record store in Anacortes, Washington. Phil Elverum, while choosing to perform, also asked fans to stay away as the response was "overwhelming" and the store could only hold 50 people.[22] Elverum performed the show with his eyes closed and left immediately afterwards;[23] the first single from A Crow Looked at Me, "Real Death", was released on P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.'s SoundCloud page on January 18, 2017, to widespread acclaim, netting the "Best New Track" distinction from Pitchfork.[24] Paste wrote that in "Real Death", "[t]he music gives Elverum all the room he needs to not so much sing, but document."[25] The second single, "Ravens", was released on February 15, 2017, alongside a music video uploaded to Mount Eerie's official YouTube account, again earning the "Best New Track" distinction from Pitchfork, writing that "Elverum makes no attempts to find metaphor or meaning; when he sees two ravens flying overhead, he knows it's an omen, but he can't say what for."[26] The cover of the album features a photograph of the Joanne Kyger poem "Night Palace", which Castrée had had pinned above her desk.[27] Elverum had taken the photograph while he was cleaning out her room after she died and realised that the poem encapsulated the theme of the album. Castrée's copy of Hergé's Tintin in Tibet can be seen in the background.[6]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?8.8/10[28]
Metacritic93/100[29]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[15]
The A.V. ClubA−[30]
Consequence of SoundA−[9]
Exclaim!9/10[31]
Mojo4/5 stars[32]
Paste9.2/10[33]
Pitchfork9.0/10[16]
PopMatters10/10[13]
Uncut9/10[34]
ViceA[35]

A Crow Looked at Me received widespread critical acclaim upon release which Elverum found "reaffirming".[4] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album has received an average score of 93, indicating "universal acclaim", based on 18 reviews.[29] Heather Phares of AllMusic called the album "remarkably powerful and pure".[15] Consequence of Sound's David Sackllah said that it was "overwhelming and humbling" and wrote that "A Crow Looked at Me stands as a remarkable example of the restorative power of music, an intimate display of love, daring both in concept and execution."[9] Zack Fenech of Exclaim! said that "this record possesses immense power to make listeners reflect on their own relationships and mortality. A Crow Looked at Me is a grim memento of the grand injustice of losing those most precious to us."[31] Matt Fink of Paste magazine said that it was "beautifully and simply arranged, but it is not an entertaining album to listen to in any conventional sense, nor can it be shaken off easily, it is, however, the kind of album that makes all others seem frivolous" and that "there is no album quite like it."[33] PopMatters reviewer Thomas Britt called the album a "masterpiece" but noted that it went beyond "the limits of conventional music criticism."[13]

Some reviewers said that it was difficult to review the album. In his positive review for Drowned in Sound, JR Moores did not give the album a score because "even awarding this work the full ten-out-of-ten would feel too callous given the tragic circumstances of the record's gestation and its heartbreaking subject matter."[36] Reviewer Matthew Smith of No Ripcord said that "assigning a score to a project like this is reductive...it's almost insulting to rank something as open and raw as this."[37] Marvin Lin of Tiny Mix Tapes did score the album but said that his rating meant "absolutely nothing".[8]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Rank
The Atlantic The 10 Best Albums of 2017 6[12]
Exclaim! Top 10 Folk and Country Albums of 2017 2[38]
Fact The 50 Best Albums of 2017 14[39]
Paste The 50 Best Albums of 2017 9[40]
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2017 14[41]
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2017 10[42]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Phil Elverum.

No.TitleLength
1."Real Death"2:27
2."Seaweed"3:01
3."Ravens"6:39
4."Forest Fire"4:15
5."Swims"4:07
6."My Chasm"2:22
7."When I Take Out the Garbage at Night"2:25
8."Emptiness pt. 2"3:28
9."Toothbrush/Trash"3:52
10."Soria Moria"6:33
11."Crow"2:21
Total length:41:30

Personnel[edit]

  • Phil Elverum – songwriting, vocals, production, mixing, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, drum machine, accordion, synthesizer

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gotrich, Lars. "Stream Mount Eerie's Heartbreaking New Album, 'A Crow Looked At Me'". npr.org. NPR. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  2. ^ Yoo, Noah (July 10, 2016). "Geneviève Elverum Has Died". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  3. ^ Gormely, Ian (5 November 2018). "Microphones, Mount Eerie and Melancholy: The Career of Phil Elverum". Exclaim!. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b Kornhaber, Spencer (14 March 2018). "The Pointlessness and Promise of Art After Death". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  5. ^ Pearce, Sheldon (25 January 2017). "Mount Eerie Announces New Album, Shares New Song "Real Death"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b Martin, Erin Lyndal (21 March 2017). "Mount Eerie on Intimate Grief and the Creative Impulse". Bandcamp. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Greene, Jayson (13 March 2017). "Death Is Real: Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum Copes With Unspeakable Tragedy". Pitchfork. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Lin, Marvin. "Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Sackllah, David (March 24, 2017). "Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  10. ^ Bowe, Miles (25 January 2017). "Mount Eerie addresses his wife's death on new album A Crow Looked At Me". Fact. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  11. ^ Gormely, Ian (26 September 2018). "Phil Elverum Reveals How Mount Eerie Live Album '(After)' Puts Mourning to Rest". Exclaim!. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Kornhaber, Spencer (12 December 2017). "The 10 Best Albums of 2017". The Atlantic. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Britt, Thomas (March 20, 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me". PopMatters. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Caramanica, Jon (22 March 2017). "The Sound of Sadness Overwhelms and Inspires Mount Eerie". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d Phares, Heather. "A Crow Looked at Me – Mount Eerie". AllMusic. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Powell, Mike (March 24, 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked At Me". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  17. ^ Salmon, Ben (12 April 2017). "On A Crow Looked at Me, Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum Processes the Death of His Wife". The Portland Mercury. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  18. ^ "A Crow Looked at Me Gives Mount Eerie a Worthy Eulogy". Beatroute. 12 August 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  19. ^ Stosuy, Brandon (15 March 2017). "Phil Elverum on creating art from grief". The Creative Independent. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  20. ^ Currin, Grayson. "How Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum Faced Grief on His Devastating New Album". Vice_(magazine)#Website. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  21. ^ Yoo, Noah (January 5, 2017). "Phil Elverum: "Please Don't Come" to Tomorrow's Mount Eerie Show". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  22. ^ Strauss, Matthew (December 30, 2016). "Mount Eerie Performing New Music at First Show in 2 Years". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  23. ^ Child, Tom (10 April 2017). "Mount Eerie: Stay Sincere". L.A. Record. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  24. ^ Currin, Grayson (January 25, 2017). ""Real Death" by Mount Eerie Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  25. ^ McNett, Jared (January 25, 2017). "Mount Eerie Shares Deeply Personal "Real Death," Announces New Album A Crow Looked At Me". Paste. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  26. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (February 15, 2017). ""Ravens" by Mount Eerie Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  27. ^ Joffe, Justin (21 March 2017). "Beyond Grief: How Mount Eerie Made an Album About His Wife's Death". Observer. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  28. ^ "A Crow Looked at Me by Mount Eerie reviews". AnyDecentMusic?. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  29. ^ a b "Reviews and Tracks for A Crow Looked at Me by Mount Eerie". Metacritic. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  30. ^ Corcoran, Nina (March 24, 2017). "Mount Eerie confronts death on its saddest album to date". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  31. ^ a b Fenech, Zach (March 24, 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me". Exclaim!. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  32. ^ Male, Andrew (July 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me". Mojo (284): 91.
  33. ^ a b Fink, Matt (March 24, 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked At Me Review". Paste. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  34. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (May 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me". Uncut (240): 35.
  35. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 27, 2018). "Robert Christgau on Mount Eerie's 'A Crow Looked at Me,' a Brutal Listen". Vice. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  36. ^ Moores, JR (20 March 2017). "Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  37. ^ Smith, Matthew (23 March 2017). "Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me". No Ripcord. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  38. ^ Exclaim! (December 4, 2017). "Top 10 Folk and Country Albums of 2017". Retrieved Jan 10, 2018.
  39. ^ Horner, Al (20 December 2017). "The 50 best albums of 2017". Fact. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  40. ^ Paste staff (27 November 2017). "The 50 Best Albums of 2017". Paste. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  41. ^ Pitchfork (December 12, 2017). "The 50 Best Albums of 2017". Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  42. ^ Stereogum Staff (December 5, 2017). "The 50 Best Albums of 2017". Stereogum. Retrieved December 6, 2017.

External links[edit]