As Mount Eerie, and prior to 2004 as The Microphones, Phil Elverum has pioneered a distinct form of existential music – hinged on a balance of boundlessness and intimacy – that feels entirely homegrown. While each album has been unique in sound and approach, they all grapple with big questions in ways that are human and relatable. The 2016 death of his wife, Geneviève Castrée, from cancer marked a monumental shift in his life and his music. In the months after her death, in the throes of grief and learning how to be a single parent to their young daughter, Elverum wrote and recorded the album that has become his most acclaimed work: A Crow Looked At Me. The intimacy implied by Elverum’s earlier work became the music’s overwhelming quality, with the words being sung creating a direct line between the listener and Elverum’s grief, presented clearly and unencumbered by flair. Now Only, written shortly following the release of A Crow Looked At Me and the first live performances of those songs, is a deeper exploration of that style of candid, undisguised lyrical writing. It portrays Elverum’s continuing immersion in the strange reality of Castrée’s death, chronicling the evolution of his relationship to her and her memory, and of the effect the artistic exploration of his grief has had on his own life.
The music, fully realized by Elverum alone at home, is fleshed out texturally and seems to react to the words in real time. In a moment of confusion, dissonance abruptly makes itself known; in a moment of clarity, gentle piano arises. On the title track, the blunt declaration of “people get cancer and die” is subverted by a melody that can only be described as pop. As Elverum reinvents his lyrical process, he is also refining his musical vocabulary. Elverum’s life during the period he wrote Now Only was defined by the duality of existing with the praise and attention garnered by A Crow Looked At Me and the difficult reality of maintaining a house with a small child by himself, as well as working to preserve his love’s artistic legacy. Stepping into the role of “Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie” held the promise of positive empathy and praise, but also the difficulty of inhabiting the intense grief that produced the music. These moments, both public and domestic, are chronicled in these songs about living on the cusp of the past and present and reluctantly witnessing a beloved person’s history take shape. Time continues.
“Now Only is a work of grief that transcends grief, that grapples with the vacuum left by loss while embracing loss as a cosmic constant.” -NPR
“As Elverum continues to pick at impossible questions, he situates Genevieve’s death within the full context of his life.” –Pitchfork (Best New Track)
RIYL: Sun Kil Moon, Will Oldham / Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Julie Doiron, Mirah, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Recommended Tracks: Track 2, “Distortion,” Track 3, “Now Only,” Track 4, “Earth”
Label: P.W. Elverum & Sun
Digital Servicing Only
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