Last Friday Phil Elverum played a show at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in D.C.. It was one of the strangest and most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. The show sold out quickly as the church probably only held around one hundred people, but we all approached the nave with a kind of calm solidarity. When Phil approached the stage, soft spoken, warbling, and sincere as he has always been, he addressed the crowd with a simply apology, “I’m sorry for what you’re all about to hear.. but I think you knew what you were getting yourself in to… okay one-two-three-go ‘Death is real…'”
He went through about half of A Crow Looked At Me before he kind of reset for a minute before sharing a few new songs. They felt like the natural successors to Crow’s devastated, dejected guided stories. The songs still weave disconnected stories of his life and experiences with random observations of nature and kind, but these newer stories feel another year removed from Geneviève’s passing. Their daughter is a kid now, not a baby, and Phil revels in her voice and thoughts as a piece of Geneviève’s. The songs are devastating and beautiful, and probably work as evidence that his “conceptual Emptiness was fun to sing about”/heady black metal phase has passed.
I strongly disagree with music outlets picking Crow up as “one of the best albums of the year,” and if anyone has put out an entirely honest and non-commercial body of work over a legendary (of itself a coded, list-derived moniker) career it’s been Phil Elverum. Still, these new songs are some of his most distinct and disarming songwriting. This is one of those new songs, about the beginning of his relationship with Geneviève Castrée.