Mount Eerie – Now Only
Now Only is Phil Elverum’s second encomium to his wife, Geneviève, who died of cancer in 2016. Like its predecessor from last year, it’s a record that’s easier and perhaps even wiser to ignore than to put on and listen to for the first time. That’s because you know the simple act of pressing play will inevitably lead to intense and prolonged feelings of morbidity and loss. They’re inescapable and almost unbearable. But then you knew that when you decided to press play. Like A Crow Looked At Me before it, Now Only is a testament to the immediacy of grief and its “feral eruptions of sobbing”. It’s also a checklist of the everyday banality of death, which is no less upsetting. “I went and wrote a check and got a cardboard box, full of your ashes, and a little plastic bag with your necklace, and I drove back home truly alone.” Perhaps more so than last year’s record, though, it’s also an album that hints at the next part of the grieving process. The desire to keep the past as alive as it once was, but the recognition that it’s bound to disappear in its previous form. “I don’t want to live with this feeling any longer than I have to, but also I don’t want you to be gone”. And the realisation that the future will hold only imperfect memories of a life that once was. “I know that you are gone and that I’m carrying some version of you around, some untrustworthy old description in my memories”. Some albums are uplifting in their sadness. They make you feel less alone by making you aware that you’re like many others. Like its 2017 counterpart, though, Now Only is not one of those albums. “No. No one can understand. No. My devastation is unique.” But it’s still an absolutely beautiful album. A crushingly emotional album for sure. But then you knew that when you decided to press play.
Soccer Mommy – Clean
“You’re made from the stars”, sings Soccer Mommy. But she’s not thinking of Ronaldo or even his little brother Ronaldinho. Her mind is on other things. Whether it’s her friend Mary. “She’ll treat you like a fucking toy, She’ll break your heart and steal your joy”. Or just herself. “Baby I lost my faith, I kissed him on the second date”. This is an album of up-close observations on friends and relationships. Soccer Mommy is 20-year old Sophie Allison. With a history of more-or-less approximate home-recordings already under her belt, Clean is a different proposition altogether. For sure, there’s a certain nostalgia for how things were. The warping of the tape spool on ‘Cool’. The slightly uneven vocals in various places. But throughout there’s the confidence of an artist who’s mature beyond her years. “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog, That you drag around, A collar on my neck tied to a pole, Leave me in the freezing cold”. It’s difficult to argue with that. There are hints of early Sharon Van Etten or Angel Olsen about Soccer Mommy. And just sometimes you feel that in a few years the arrangements would be fleshed out even more. But for now, it’s more than fine. Because Soccer Mommy is already more than merely a passive observer. A figure on the sidelines. She’s a real player.
Scenic Route To Alaska – How It Feels
The last time we took the Scenic Route To Alaska was back in October when they were telling us to ‘Slow Down‘. Now, they’re back with a new album. Or nearly anyway. Tough Luck will be out in just a week’s time. Produced by Howard Redekopp of The New Pornographers fame, it promises to be another slice of wide-open Prairie Rock. That’s if the new single, ‘How It Feels’, is anything to go by. Written on the back of a tour, it sounds anything but jaded. With the band soon be heading back out on the road across their native Canada, the US, Germany and the Netherlands, let’s hope that further inspiration awaits. In the meantime, there’s a … wrestling video to enjoy!