Picture a warm log cabin. A fire is crackling away, and you are sitting in a comfortable leather armchair drinking some exotic kind of tea, all while a winter’s storm rages outside the window. This is the kind of sonic landscape that singer/songwriter Phil Elverum has woven throughout most of his projects, letting the instrumentation do the talking in most cases; warm string cuts punctuated by harsh and raspy lo-fi electric guitars and drums.
However, on his latest release, a deeply moving and personal conceptual album following the death of Elverum’s wife, the instrumentation is far more stripped back, leaving the listener at the mercy of the brutally sad lyrics.
In the spring of 2015, Elverum’s wife, Geneviève, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Not many people survive this kind of cancer, and Geneviève suddenly died three months after her 35th birthday. Death is a subject oft explored, but never in such raw depth as this.
Each track is more painfully heartbreaking than the last, offering a series of vignettes on the vocalist’s grief and sense of loss, as well as the lamentation on having to raise a motherless child.
The lyrics themselves are harsh, avoiding euphemism and getting straight to the point. It’s rare to see music this blunt and straightforward achieve such raw emotion, but I think the fearless way in which Elverum tackles his own feelings make this record something special, and something I won’t forget about.