P.W. Elverum & Sun/Mistletone
Last year’s A Crow Looked At Me was hard hitting emotionally, at times a little uncomfortable, but most certainly an instant masterpiece. Phil Elverum’s complete and total honesty following the death of Genevieve, his partner and mother to their child, was breathtaking, beautiful and real. The follow up, Now Only, begins where A Crow Looked At Me left off.
Residing in a similar, stripped back sonic landscape as A Crow…, Now Only is at times louder and a little more produced. Drum beats, feedback, and some keys are sprinkled throughout the album. Still it’s the intricate guitar picking that is the main focus of the instrumentation. The lyrics and vocals however, touched by the raw and terrible truths Elverum faces, are the real stars of this album. The long meandering stories seem to make the Sun Kil Moon comparisons from the last album seem even more fitting, as lyrics about the past and present are presented matter of factly.
Whereas A Crow… began with “death is real”, Now Only begins with “I sing to you”. It feels like Elverum has come to accept his partner’s untimely passing. There’s something good to be found in the love he shared with Genevieve. And so the album begins telling tales of their first encounters, he missing her when they were previously apart, other moments from a past that seems so far away. This is very much an album about love as much as it is about death.
It’s not all consumed with sorrow, either. There are moments of humour (Now Only) and terror (Earth), but never joy, even when Phil is singing of the good times you can feel them tainted by death. Yet there’s glimpses of hope scattered throughout, mostly centred around his daughter.
I hate to continue to compare Now Only to A Crow…, but this album is very much a companion piece. It doesn’t feel as hard hitting. I’m not sure if that’s because I was prepared for the subject matter, or if it’s because there’s been some time for Elverum to digest his tragedy. It is an easier listen, and the extra instrumentation helps. Either way, Now Only is still incredibly real, which makes it at times a little uncomfortable but also flattering that he trusts the audience enough to share such intimate works with us. An integral addition to his original snapshot of grief.