The latest album from Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie, The Microphones), is an emotional heavyweight. It’s an album of direct, focused story telling about moving beyond from the death of someone close, in this case it was is wife which only a little over a year prior to her death gave birth to their one and only daughter. It’s a heartbreaking story and this album is an intimate look into his life beyond this loss and transitioning into a life beyond death.
In the spirit of honest storytelling, the first time I casually sat down to listen to a song released early from the album about a month ago, called ‘Real Death’, it left me broken for a short while. I caught myself in tears by the end of listening the first time through because it caught me so off guard. It had been a long time since feeling such a honest connection to a song.
I’m in a point in my life where my emotionally driven artistic self is starting to have to run along behind my practical self, doing its best to keep up with increasing responsibility. My emotional connections to life have been condensed into the exploration of a new kind of love that I have only recently become aquatinted with in the form of having a daughter, family, and home. There are days it feels like a dream but every time I come home from a long day of work and find the smiling face of my daughter on the other side of the front door nothing else matters but that moment, everything locks into place with a satisfying deep breath of fragile air before the whirlwind of life kicks back in.
I say this to explain why this song and now the rest of the album as well, struck such a delicate chord somewhere inside of me. It forced me to consider the frailty of memory, time, and love. His prolific gift for song writing and story telling paints a clear and present picture of what loss is and he cradles this emotion in such a way that I can not help but feel connected with as I listen. If you can make it through this album without feeling it tug at your emotional self then surely you are nothing more than a sack of rocks. What is life without a connection to this deeper side of ourselves? I can’t help but feel as though the loss described among these songs transcends their own sadness and become hopeful in their fearless embrace of reality.
The songwriting on this album is an intimate affair that is usually reserved for the pages of personal journals locked away never to be read. But Phil is an artist who has literally published a journal of his in the past among another classic album of his known for it’s honesty. He is a legend because he is emotionally venerable yet truly creative in his approach to music. Since the beginning he has carved his own sound through hope, fear and loss coupled with polarizing approaches to songwriting that swing wildly from the softest of whispers to the loudest of roars.
Needless to say his music and art has been a huge influence for me over the years both in his songwriting and his meticulous attention to detail, quality, and cleverness when releasing physical copies of his records and artwork. I hope to see plenty more from him as he continues to do what he does best, and shares his perspective with the rest of us.