In a sentence:
A sequel to their 2008 collaboration, Julie Doiron represents a fitting creative foil for Phil Elverum’s Mount Eerie on ‘Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2’.
It’s impossible to discuss this new release from Mount
Eerie, the brainchild of Washington-based folk artist Phil Elverum, without
drawing reference to his previous two efforts and the context surrounding them.
Whether it be 2017’s A Crow
Looked At Me or 2018’s Now Only,
any listener will be well aware of the personal tragedy that befell Elverum in
2016, and how both of those records were essentially an exhibition of
desperately heart-breaking, mournful catharsis set to music. The unmistakably
literal yet achingly genuine descriptions of both his deepest, darkest emotions,
and his memories of an untroubled past, intertwined with flourishes of poetic
imagery, have since become a unique, defining characteristic of Mount Eerie’s
On Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2, a sequel to Elverum’s 2008 release,
we are offered more of the same. A further reference to his tragedy can be
heard within the first three minutes of the album, via the extremely poignant
lyric, “When I was younger, and didn’t know, I used to walk around basically
begging the sky for some calamity to challenge my foundation. So, imagine what
it was like to watch up close a loved one die.” However, similarly to the
original Lost Wisdom album, this is a collaborative affair, as Elverum
welcomes back Canadian singer Julie Doiron, whose vocals throw an extra
layer of colour into the mix, contrasting effectively with Elverum’s dejected
tones. Their harmonies are a standout feature of arguably the most accessible
tracks on the album, the lead single ‘Love Without Possession’
and the closing number ‘Belief
However, for every silver lining there is a black cloud.
Whilst on his previous efforts, Mount Eerie was able to get away with his
excessively wordy lyrical passages, often scrambling frantically to keep up
with the comparatively more conventional rhythm of the instrumental, the
addition of a guest vocalist occasionally results in clashes between Elverum
and Doiron’s voices. A case in point, taken from the opening track ‘Belief’, is the lyric “trying
to stop clinging to a dream and let an old idea of love dissipate back into
formless rolling waves of discomfort and uncertainty”, which the duo
somehow manages to fit into five bars. Although this is one of many phenomenal
lines of poetry that this album has to offer, the pair’s attempt at juxtaposing
the lyric to the instrumental accompaniment while simultaneously trying to keep
up with each other does not allow the listener a single moment’s respite, and
is sometimes unpleasing to the ear.
Ultimately, Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 is sure to elicit many
of the same responses to Mount Eerie’s previous two works, as stylistically,
aside from Julie Doiron’s contributions, the result is more of a continuation
rather than a development. There is undoubtedly a very specific time and place
for music like this. One can expect those unfortunate enough to have suffered a
similar tragedy to that of Elverum’s to identify strongly with the themes
explored here. However, with the possible exception of ‘Love Without
Possession’ and ‘Belief Pt. 2’, this album is not to be listened to for
enjoyment. Nor is it to be listened to by virtue of its musical characteristics,
which are, for the most part, unspectacular. Yet that’s perfectly fine, as it
is fairly clear that neither of those were the artists’ intention when crafting
this record. As expected, the music merely plays second fiddle to the lyrical
aspect, at which Phil Elverum truly is a wonder to behold. (6/10) (George
Listen to Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 by Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: George McKenna, Julie Doiron, Lost Wisdom pt 2, Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum
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