In July of 2016, Phil Elverum lost his wife to cancer. The following spring, Elverum—the person behind Mount Eerie and the Microphones—released A Crow Looked at Me: a frighteningly candid exploration of love, death, and gratitude. The hermetically introspective songwriter details his experience with diary-like intimacy, producing the most clear-eyed expression of grift I’ve encountered.
I first attempted to listen to this album in a public space—a coffee shop. My use of “attempt” is deliberate; here are the first lines of the record: “Death is real/someone’s there and then they’re not/and it’s not for singing about/it’s not for making into art/When real death enters the house all poetry is dumb.” A Crow Looked at Me is about the hallucinatory stupor of grief, a state where everything—toothbrushes, flies, sunsets—flickers with suggestion and memory, provoking a depth of gratitude unfamiliar before loss. This album will make you want to thank your friends, partner, and family for existing.