Tag Archives: Mount Eerie

March 18, 2017 — “Distortion” by Mount Eerie

Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Distortion” by Mount Eerie (2018, from the album Now Only).

Mount Eerie is the Anacortes, Washington ambient indie-folk/slowcore brainchild of Phil Elverum. He used to front a band called The Microphones, who formed in 1996 and released four albums on legendary punk label K Records between 1999 and 2003. The last of those albums was Mount Eerie, and after its release, Elverum announced that he’d no longer use the Microphones name. Since then, he’s done a bunch of visual art things and he’s recorded under the Mount Eerie name.

His 2015 album Sauna was my #17 record of that year, and it really should have been placed closer to the top ten of my year-end countdown. Last year’s A Crow Looked at Me was certainly among my very favourite albums of the year, but because of its weight, one can really only listen to it a few times without becoming engulfed in sadness. That heartbreaking work of staggering genius (you should read Dave Eggers’ book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) was about the death of his wife Genviève Castrée. Every song is about her. Every song is about death. Every song is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s a really difficult album do listen to, but it was met with universally rave reviews.

I was very excited when I saw Mount Eerie on the Hopscotch lineup last autumn, and I was completely blown away by his performance. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. You can read about that here. During that stunning set, he played a couple of works in progress, which eventually became the songs on Now Only.

The new album, which just came out on March 16, has also been met with rave reviews. It’s more or less a companion piece to A Crow Looked at Me. These are also songs about Genviève. These are also beautiful and painful songs about death. They’re written and sung by a man who has very fresh wounds, and he makes his audience understand his pain. Today’s song is the one that made me lose my mind at Hopscotch.

Right off the bat, there’s the heavily distorted electric guitar, which is something that there isn’t much of on this album and even less of on A Crow Looked at Me. That chunky, fuzzy bit sounds a little like the opening to an alternate version of Pavement’s “Here”, or maybe any number of Sonic Youth songs. But this isn’t the high-intensity of those bands; far from it. This is somber and unbearably heavy, but he somehow makes it easy for his audience to relate. This is, as I’ve said before, the kind of song about love and loss that Mark Kozelek wishes he could write. Kozelek can write the hell out of a song about being dumped (see: “Katy Song”), but I’ve hated his stuff about death and mortality (see: Benji) because I found it over-the-top and hard to relate to.

Today’s song is thematically heavy and on the long side. It takes a great deal of effort to listen to this, and it takes some time to decompress after listening. Give it your undivided attention. Listen to this alone in a quiet room. Don’t listen while you’re doing dishes or working out or something like that. Buy this record. Listen to it with your full attention. Admire the artwork. Then leave it alone for a while. You can’t return to it very often. If you get a chance, you need to see Phil play these songs live. It’s an emotionally and even physically exhausting experience, but it’s worth it.

The thing that makes this so powerful is the very candid account of seeing first his great grandfather’s dead body many years ago, then his wife’s dead body in their bedroom. It’s about getting another glimpse into his own mortality and a feeling about the fingerprints that we all leave behind:

The second dead body I ever saw was you, Geneviève,
when I watched you turn from alive to dead right here in our house.
I looked around the room and asked “Are you here?”
and you weren’t, and you are not here. I sing to you though.
I keep you breathing through my lungs
in a constant uncomfortable stream of memories trailing out
until I am dead too
and then eventually all the people who remember me will also die
containing what it was like to stand in the same air with me
and breathe and wonder why

There are also some other personal things woven into the song, and most of it is sort of hard to take. Neither this song, nor the album as a whole, is a walk in the park.

You can buy the new album via the Mount Eerie site here. You should also buy a box of tissues.

Recapping Hopscotch17 Day One

This long weekend marks the eighth annual Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh. For the sixth year in a row, I’ll be here from start to finish. This year is a little different in a couple of ways. I just moved from Greensboro NC to Durham NC, so I’m closer to the festival. Because I was focused on moving, I didn’t get much of a chance to do any Hopscotch prep the way I normally do. So this year, there are a lot of bands about whom I’ve done absolutely no research. It’s still going to be a blast, and it already has been after day one.

Skylar Gudasz

Skylar Gudasz opened the festival in City Plaza. I knew nothing about the Durham indie singer/songwriter, but I had at least previewed a few of her songs. Her set was exactly what I was expecting, but I was having a hard time getting really into it. For the first time in six years, I didn’t meet up with any friends, so I just wandered around the City Plaza checking things out. I ran into a couple who lived across the street from me 10 years ago and who now live in Nashville. We chatted about the Predators for a while, and they encouraged me to stick around for the Margo Price set later. It wasn’t on my list, but there wasn’t anything else on my list at that time, so I said I would.

Big Thief

After Skylar Gudasz was the Brooklyn indie rock quartet Big Thief. This was another band who I didn’t know, but I really liked the songs I previewed. Still, I didn’t know what to expect. I was really impressed, and I kept thinking to myself “Whatever it is I was expecting, this is much better”. They have a new record this year called Capacity, and it’s getting rave reviews. Their first record Masterpiece (2015) did too. Later in the night, I met a guy who told me that those Big Thief records are among his favourite records of the decade. I’m definitely going to get both of them.

Margo Price

Because I had run into my former neighbours, I stuck around for the Margo Price set even though it wasn’t even on my long list. The Nashville singer does straight country. That usually doesn’t work for me, but I had heard and read some things that compared her to Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, so I was totally up for giving her a fair try. After a few songs, I realized that she was just too country for my taste, so I headed out of the Plaza to get started on the club show portion of the evening.

All the Saints

I had intended to make it to see Memphis psych rockers Spaceface, but I didn’t get there in time. The show was in The Basement, which is the new, cavernous venue in the basement of the Convention Center. It took me a while to find it, and I missed all of Spaceface. I was, though, just in time for Atlanta noise/psych/sludge rock trio All The Saints. I literally knew nothing about them going in, and they weren’t even on my long list. Their set ended up being one of my favourite things of the night. It’s worth mentioning that the frontman reminded me of a beardy Adam Scott. It’s also worth mentioning that the drummer was absolutely pummeling his kit, which was small and mounted low. Not many skins, but a lot of cymbals. I scribbled a note that they were like a sludgier, darker Sonic Youth mixed with a helping of Montréal post-rock. Later on, I read something that mentioned All the Saints and A Place to Bury Strangers in the same breath. I’m not sure about that, but I liked them a lot nonetheless. It’s rare for me to do this at Hopscotch, but I stayed for their entire set, and I’ve marked my planner for their day party show on Saturday.

Phil Elverum

I headed over to Fletcher because I had Shane Parish on my long list and Mount Eerie at the very top of my short list. I arrived just in time for the end of Shane Parish’s set. I didn’t know anything about him, but I liked the songs I previewed. I went in for one song, but I couldn’t get into it, so I went outside and had a bit of a break while waiting for the Mount Eerie set to begin. Mount Eerie is, of course, the work of slowcore giant Phil Elverum. I’ve been a long-time fan of the fiercely independent musician from Anacortes, Washington. His new critically acclaimed record A Crow Looked at Me is amazing, but it’s a really tough listen. The entire album is about the death of his wife Geneviève Castrée. She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last July. The songs are heavy and candid and real. Songs about receiving a package addressed to her a few days after she died – something she had ordered for their daughter. Songs about the pain of having to throw the garbage from her bathroom away one last time. Songs about having to get up and make eggs for breakfast. Songs about missing the hell out of her. Songs about his own mortality. Those songs must be listened to thoughtfully and without distraction. You can’t listen to them in the car or while you’re at work, or at the gym. They’re painful but beautiful songs. When Phil Elverum writes that stuff, you feel his pain. When Mark Kozelek wrote songs about death and grief for Benji, they came across as cheesy. Plus, Kozelek is a dick.
Most of the audience knew the story of Geneviève’s death. Most of the audience knew the new songs. Still, we didn’t really know what we were going to get. We got the real, raw Phil, and it was absolutely stunning. He didn’t talk much. He knew that we all knew. He really only spoke three times. Once to “apologize” for the tone. He said that he loves playing the songs, but feels bad for the audience. Another time, during a run of new, unreleased songs, he simply asked that we keep our videos to ourselves and not release them on the internet. Phil had, apparently, been slightly heckled by an audience member in Chicago just a couple of days ago. Someone who didn’t want the new stuff. All of us did, and we absolutely loved it. In that quiet, intimate setting of Fletcher, we all felt it very much. There was a lot of sniffling and a lot of teary eyes in the house. I stayed for the entire beautiful set, and I was both physically drained from a long week and emotionally drained from that set. Still, though, there was other music to see.

Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre

I headed back over to The Basement to see The Brian Jonestown Massacre. If I’m honest, I’m not really a fan of the band, but I totally appreciate the insane genius of Anton Newcombe. He’s the only remaining member of the band from the 1990s that was known for its debauchery and its prolific releases, and its inner turmoil. Back then, there was a reasonable chance that Newcombe was going to fight someone from the audience or someone from his band. He’s sobered up since then, and there’s a totally different lineup, so it’s not at all the same. Still, though, I wanted to see them just to see them. They have a deep love/hate relationship with The Dandy Warhols, whom I’ve seen several times. I just wanted to get the other side of that. Their set was really, extraordinarily loud. Even with my quality ear plugs in, it was loud. And because of the cavernous space, the sound was bouncing around a bit. I stayed for three songs, and I was a bit put off that nobody aside from the drummer seemed to care very much. The other six band members stood motionless. There should have been energy, and there wasn’t. I had one last thing on my list, so I ducked out of that set early.

Sunflower Bean

Finally, I headed over to The Pour House to catch some of Sunflower Bean. The noisy, bouncy Brooklyn-based indie rock trio was just what I needed. They were enthusiastic and energetic and all of that. They sounded great, too. I was a little nervous about going there because that venue is normally packed, and it’s hard to see the stage, and it gets uncomfortable for me pretty quickly in there. As it turns out, they were only about half full, and the crowd that was there was having a great time. Unfortunately, I reached a point where I just couldn’t do anymore. I had to drive back to the hotel and catch some sleep.

It was a great first night, highlighted by the sensational set by Mount Eerie. I’m quite sure that one will end up being in my top two things from the whole festival. There’s still a long way to go, though…. I’m about to head out for the day party stuff and for the long day two.

Our favorite albums of 2015 (part 7)

Earlier this week, I started the countdown of my favorite albums of 2015. It’s been a fantastic year, with a lot of new and exciting stuff. A lot of debut records are on the list, and a lot of old favorites are on the list. Because it’s been such a quality year, I included 50 albums in the countdown, and I also included 25 honorable mentions.

You can see the list of honorable mentions here

So far, the countdown from 50 to 21 looks like this:

50)Lower Dens — Escape From Evil
49)Girl Band — Holding Hands With Jamie
48)Creepoid — Cemetery Highrise Slum
47)Thayer Sarrano — Shaky
46)Rachel Grimes — The Clearing
45)Stolen Jars — Kept
44)Hey Anna — Run Koko
43)Speedy Ortiz — Foil Deer
42)Marriages — Salome
41)Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep
40)The Harrow — Silhouettes
39)Casket Girls — The Piano Album
38)Spectres — Dying
37)Eternal Summers — Gold and Stone
36)Esmerine — Lost Voices
35)Diverting Duo — Desire
34)Viet Cong — Viet Cong
33)astrobrite — Deluxer
32)Noveller — Fantastic Planet
31)Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
30)Long Beard — Sleepwalker
29)Hamsas XIII — Encompass
28)Westkust — Last Forever
27)Hop Along — Painted Shut
26)Lanterns On The Lake — Beings
25)Violent Mae — Kid
24)The Black Ryder — The Door Behind The Door
23)Moon King — Secret Life
22)The Soft Moon — Deeper
21)Trementina — Almost Reach the Sun

Today, we’ll continue the countdown on from 20 to 16. Remember to click on album art to get to where you can buy that album.

Beach House — Thank Your Lucky Stars

20)Beach House — Thank Your Lucky Stars
This is the sixth album from the Baltimore dream pop duo and their second of two albums in 2015. This second album was a bit of a surprise, even to big fans. They announced its release via Twitter, then released it nine days later. It’s made up entirely of stuff that was written and recorded during the Depression Cherry sessions, but they insist that this is not a “companion album”. They also wanted to be clear that these are not b-sides or throwaways. And they’re certainly not. I love this album, but I love the stuff from Depression Cherry even more. You’ll see that later in the countdown.

No Joy — More Faithful

19)No Joy — More Faithful
This is the third album by the Montréal doomgaze/dream-punk quartet. I liked their 2013 sophomore album a lot, and I like this one even more. They’re a much more sophisticated, much more technically proficient, and much more focused on production values than they were even two years ago. As soon as More Faithful came out in June, I knew that it would end up in my top 20.

Torres — Sprinter

18)Torres — Sprinter
This is the second album by the indie folk/indie rock band that’s fronted by Mackenzie Scott. She spent most of her life in Georgia and in Tennessee, and now the band is set up in Brooklyn. You may remember that her debut album Torres was my second favorite album of 2013, behind only m b v. That year, I also saw Torres at the Hopscotch Music Festival, and was totally floored by her day party performance. Unfortunately, I had a conflict that prevented me from going to the nighttime show, but it was incredible. I had very high expectations for this album, and when I heard “New Skin” well in advance of the May album release, I was overwhelmed with excitement. The fact that this comes in at 18 doesn’t mean that I was disappointed. I was quite pleased, and it still plays a lot around my house. A lot of people say that Torres reminds them of Sharon Van Etten. I say that Torres has, in a short period of time, gotten better than Sharon Van Etten.

Mount Eerie — Sauna

17)Mount Eerie — Sauna
This is the seventh album by the Washington state based slowcore/indie folk/drone veteran Phil Elverum. He’s been recording as Mount Eerie since 2003, and by most accounts, this is the biggest and broadest thing he’s done. He says that the album was inspired by Vikings and zen and the national character of Finland. Right out of the gate, the album starts with a ten-minute song that’s really droney and open and peaceful. It sets the tone and the headspace for a great listening party. If you’re patient and calm, it’s a beautiful album from start to finish.

Shana Falana — Set Your Lightning Fire Free

16)Shana Falana — Set Your Lightning Fire Free
This is the debut album by the dream pop/shoegaze duo from Kingston, New York. The band is fronted by multi-instrumentalist Shana Falana. According to the story, she met this guy Michael Amari (drums) at a garden party, they started talking about Bauhaus, and they started this band together. The story also goes that this album was written in a very short span of time and recorded without studio equipment using the motto “do it once and don’t look back”. If this is true, I shudder to think how good their next record might be if they spend a lot of time in the studio. I’ve played this record a ton of times, but I unfortunately missed my chance to see them when they played near me.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow, I hope to get another post up, which will get us down to number 11, I’ll be taking Monday off so I can travel back home.

01.24.2015 — “Sauna” by Mount Eerie

Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie

If you only watch one music video tonight, make it “Sauna” by Mount Eerie (2015, from the forthcoming album Sauna).

Mount Eerie is an ambient/drone/slowcore/folk band from Anacortes, Washington. The band is fronted by Phil Elverum, who has also been the front of some other bands. He’s also done a bunch of visual art stuff and he’s produced some albums. He used to be the front of the band The Microphones, but he’s been running Mount Eerie since 2003. He’s been pretty prolific, with six proper albums and a boatload of EPs under his belt while using the Mount Eerie moniker. He’s known for creating albums with beautiful and exhaustive artwork, and this forthcoming 2xLP is no different.

The new album is coming out on February 3, and I’ve read a lot of great things about it. I’ve heard three of the 12 songs, and I’m really excited about it. I don’t own anything by Mount Eerie, but I’ve been aware of them for a few years. A few days ago, I noticed that they’d released two promotional videos for the new album, and they’re both spectacular. The video for “This” is really stark and bizarre and beautiful. This is also bizarre and beautiful. Stereogum compared it to the work of David Lynch. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is pretty weird. Never mind that. The song is magnificent. If you like drone-y, low-tempo stuff. Take the mind-blowingly awesome penultimate drone-fest song “Do You Know How To Waltz”, from Low’s very good album The Curtain Hits The Cast and slow it down a bit. Cut its length a bit. This song is what you get. Extreme drone. I’ve watched this video/listened to the song a bunch of times and I still can’t believe how much I like it. It’s intoxicating to me.

The video, by the way, represents an abridged version of the song. I don’t know how long the album version will be, and those details aren’t available just yet.

Anyway, here’s the video. I encourage you to watch it several times. Or at least play the video several times just so you can hear the song excerpt. Relax and enjoy. This is deep relaxation music.

The cowgirl with the lasso is frequent Mount Eerie collaborator Allyson Foster. She also co-directed the video.

The Mount Eerie/Elverum website describes the video in many unusual ways. One way it describes the video –or at least the third act of it– is “The national identity (sisu) of Finland”. Okay. Sure. Read the full description here.

This album will be released via their own label P. W. Elverum & Sun. The physical format will be a high-quality, heavy 2XLP in a deluxe gatefold package. The 12″ records will play at 45rpm. See what it looks like here, and pre-order it here. Street date is February 2, but it’ll ship in “late January”. The physical purchase includes a digital download, which I’ll assume will be redeemable prior to the street date.

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