Every single Friday, we find and collate the best albums released this week so you don’t have to. Look no further than right here for your weekend listening material.
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me
“Death is real” is the instantaneous opening line from Washington based singer-songwriter Phil Elverum on “Real Death”. With this, he instantly addresses the inspiration for Mount Eerie’s ninth studio album A Crow Looked at Me: the death of his wife (and mother of his child) to cancer. Diaristic in its detailed recounting of events and feeling, this work is reminiscent to that of artists like Sun Kil Moon. Elverum vividly recounts moments, memories and feelings associated with his wife’s final weeks, days and passing – but does so with a striking honesty and authenticity. It would take a much longer review to adequately sift through the many astonishingly touching and detailed accounts Elverum uses to paint a realistic image of his wife’s physical decline, the surroundings in which it occurred and the time following her passing, but they remain as pragmatically sombre and beautiful throughout the whole album. What strikes me most about A Crow Looked at Me is how faithful and accurate Elverum is in depicting the experience of losing a close loved one. The album matter-of-factly trawls through observations of the environment around him, whether discussing the hot summer they had experienced, the forest fires in the area, local wildlife, or conversations with local people and his child, these tiny details represent the reality of the death and the continuation of life after death. Life is no less constant or beautiful, it’s just changed. These tiny, but important details and memories are placed into an almost otherworldly perspective, attaining more meaning and more memorability because of the significance of the ongoing tragedy. It’s one of the most realistic and straightforward accounts of death I’ve ever heard. Elverum doesn’t force any feeling onto the listener, he just delivers his experience and the moments that made it his.
Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
Nine years ago, Kelly Lee Owens was working as a nurse on a cancer ward in Manchester. It may appear a little tenuous to link this experience to her music directly, but Owens has cited it as having impacted her creatively, “it sounds dramatic but being around death inspired me to live”. There is an earthly fluidity to Kelly Lee Owens’ debut album, almost a living-breathing quality in its pace and development. Richly atmospheric and dreamy, Kelly Lee Owens sits somewhere in between minimal techno, ambience and ethereal dream-pop. The sampling of rainfall and birdsong on “Arthur” may be the only direct musical reference to the natural world, but this album continually seems to create densely vivid, natural landscapes in its cyclic meander between extended day-dreamy, downtempo intervals and bubbling, contorting techno-synth. Kelly Lee Owens is a hugely impressive debut album that feels totally natural, both in its creative composition and its musical evocation.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Returning with their first album since 1998, The Jesus and Mary Chain are one of those bands who just never really made it onto my radar. Having dipped into their material before, admittedly only really taking away four or five songs with any real lasting knowledge, I started listening to this album with a fresh viewpoint and without any real expectations. I think that’s actually served my response to the album well here, because whilst many reviews have been a little less enthusiastic in light of reference to their early work, I’ve really enjoyed Damage and Joy for its sunny haze, beaming harmonies and the youthful exuberance revolving around drugs and girls – associated more often with teenage boys than with 50-something-year-old brothers. In that sense, for its summery-burnout, nostalgic and almost celebratory nature, it does feel a bit like a reunion party for old middle-aged classmates… This could easily be perceived as a little re-packaged and counterfeit, and it may inevitably incur some cynicism from some, but when an album is as plainly enjoyable as this, who really cares THAT much if it’s entirely authentic or not? I for one will be listening to this album in the Manchester sun this weekend.