Over the last couple of years, Mount Eerie has released two of the most heart-rending albums of the decade–a grief-stricken collection of ballads entitled A Crow Looked at Me, and it’s slightly more hopeful, yet still powerfully impactful Now Only. Detail by painful detail, Crow outlines the immediate backlash that Phil Elverum, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist behind Mount Eerie, experienced after the death of his wife and fellow artist, Geneviève Castrée. The bare instrumentation combined with personal anecdotes and blunt honesty creates a devastating and painful portrait of loss.
Now Only–a more concise but instrumentally complex album–deals with the changes in Phil’s perspective with the passage of time since Geneviève’s death and the strangeness of performing these songs for other people. It has the same deeply personal lyrical style while being more experimental in terms of the song structures.
The latest Mount Eerie release, After, is yet another heartbreaking peak into the individual suffering of Phil Elverum. This project is a recording of a live performance of songs from A Crow Looked at Me and Now Only. Hearing Elverum play them amidst the expansive reverb and cascades of applause is another level of intimate pain.
In the past, Mount Eerie has taken the form of a full band, but for these intensely personal songs, Phil opted to perform alone on stage–just a voice and an acoustic guitar, which, although bare, highlights the loneliness and isolation within the lyricism of these songs. His voice echoes widely within the huge space of the Netherlands’ church, making the feeling that he’s shouting into the void come to the forefront.
The first three quarters of the performance are dedicated to performing songs from A Crow Looked at Me. He really seems to be pushing the songs out of himself, almost struggling to get them out, creating an intense and solemn atmosphere. The audience is respectful and nearly silent during the performance; it seemed more like it was a gathering of souls than a concert, or maybe a ceremony of sorts.
The last few songs that he played are from Now Only, which hadn’t been recorded at the time of this concert. These songs are definitively rawer than their studio versions–they seem unedited and crammed full of lyrics in comparison. There’s a sense that he desperately needs to get this stuff out, and it’s so human.
That’s where the true beauty in this record lies. Though Phil is undoubtedly singing of his own honest experiences, he touches on truths that we all have felt. It makes us reconsider our place in the world. There is no positivity innate in these songs, but there’s something positive to take from it all: We are all people, and we will all have to go through such things as death and suffering. The least we can do is to support each other instead of creating more pain.
SCAD Radio gives this album a solid 8/10.