Stream of consciousness can be a powerful writing tool, but it usually requires a healthy dose of editing. On the latest album from the rustic mastermind of Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum delivers a very personal story while putting the music in the background. Though the words are unbelievably emotional and detailed, they can often feel like too private. Along with this, the music becomes such an afterthought in many songs that the album feels monotonous.
The album’s calm sway starts as the album cuts open on “Tintin In Tibet” as Elverum mixes his light strumming with a delicate wash of percussion. Guitars start to rush openly as the song moves to the bridge, and creates an entirely new feeling within the song. Though the song’s running story is constantly gripping and powerfully visual, the instrumentation feels both repetitive and inconsistent between parts. Even with the hefty emotional backdrop the song carries, it feels a little too unfocused.
As guitars emerge from the feedback on “Distortion” there’s a wondrous Latin flavour to their playing that make their melodies intoxicating. Throughout the song, Mount Eerie slowly weave the growling distortion back in as an emotional tool, along with their hints of bass and drums that flutter in occasion. Unfortunately these additions come so far apart across the song’s 11-minute run, that its beautiful guitar quickly becomes monotonous and bland. Though their lyrics are endlessly intriguing, it’s just too much of a stretch for most people.
“Now Only” however finds them tightening things up quite a lot to be more eccentric than painfully indulgent. Despite the song’s bright pop, the sense of realistic devastation that comes from lines like “People get cancer and die” feel hilariously contrasted in the song’s joy. They get harshly personal in the song’s soft strums, detailing their darkest moments and shared experiences with artists like Weyes Blood and Father John Misty. Here the constant sense of variation gives the droning areas more definition, instead of turning them into meaningless sound.
There’s a raw shriek to “Earth” as the lyrics speak to a heavy sense of loss, that gives each melody a deeper meaning. At times the verses get almost too morose and personal, leaving very little to the imagination. As the guitars kick back in on the choruses however, Mount Eerie give a subtle musical take on the emotional roller coaster that one tries to control after someone’s death. While the song still rides many of its hooks ad nauseam, they feel a lot more appropriate and contextualized here.
“Two Paintings by Nicolai Astrup” continues the sense of morning, as light guitars just sprint under the vocals. The track quickly switches to rushing dissent of bass and distortion that gives the song a sense of momentum to make its extended run feel short. The words continue to paint lush and detailed pictures of a life in shambles, that anchors and gives a lot of life to the album. This said, like many tracks on the album it is just far too sparsely arranged to hold most people.
This issue persists on “Crow Pt. 2” though there definitely seems to be an effort to bring a wider breadth of instrumentation to the table here. This is most present during the bridges that tell just as painful of a story as any verse of the song, just without as many words. Unfortunately though, the track also is just so samey in the overall scheme of the record that it’s hard to feel engaged completely.
Words by Owen Maxwell
Editor’s Note: The original review erroneously referred to Mount Eerie as a band. Though Phil Elverum does collaborate with musicians on his Mount Eerie records, we have corrected instances of the word “band” to reflect that it is ultimately a solo effort.