The most prevalent aspect of Mount Eerie’s discography that continuously draws listeners back to it is the visibility and truth that Phil Elverum, the core of this project, brings to the subjects of his life in his lyrics. This especially came to the forefront with the 2017 release of A Crow Looked at Me which followed the passing of his wife, cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée. The album is heartbreaking; Elverum strips away his lyrics in a way which do not try to hide intent with witty metaphors or poetic license, but honestly captures as many feelings on the subject as there are songs, still knowing that it is not enough. With this context, maybe it is then that some respite can be found in Lost Wisdom pt. 2’s lyricism, though the sadness of heartbreak and loss still lingers from his previous work.
This album, a collaborative project between Elverum and Julie Doiron, is a sequel to 2008’s Lost Wisdom, in which the two had worked together before. Here though, Elverum finds himself following a separation from actress Michelle Williams and sharing the importance of what they had, finding his way through memories, struggles, and absences. Doiron acts as a close friend, lending an empathetic response and friendly comfort through small anecdotes and the strength of duet. With a close friend to sing with, there is almost a rebuilding of the sound that Mount Eerie had before. What was once sparse guitar and the presence of being in an empty room is now contrasted by caroling duet and new sounds that had once felt lost creep their way back into the music. Drums make their presence felt on tracks, a humming buzz and resonating guitars join into the scene on “Love Without Possession,” and by the time the development of the shocking noisiness that makes up “Widows” occurs, it sounds like the ways of a past Mount Eerie meeting a vastly different present. It is welcome to hear though.
Desolation seemed to be what was overwhelming on A Crow Looked at Me, but here these traces of hardship are matched with introspection and flourish which feels as if Elverum is finding his footing in filling the silence. It is not forgetting the past but sounds as if he has found a way to carry it into the future. “Nothing is real,” sing the duo on “Widows,” recalling a refrain from A Crow, but amending the sentiment, “Except this one thing.” Memories are held onto tighter, natural imagery which has always been a mainstay of Mount Eerie’s lyrics find their way back into the songs, and overall the album, not being joyful still by any means, ends up holding onto hope and growth much more surely than Elverum has done on his last two releases. By the end of the song “Pink Light,” the question, “With each setting sun asking/Could there be another spring?” Elverum can still offer more hope than he could before, finding a promise of growth, harder to grasp before, in the next season. Heartbreak and loss are not the end here, and by the lyrics and sounds that comprise Lost Wisdom pt. 2 feel like new prospects in a way that only Mount Eerie can deliver; still dwelling, still remembering, and still hopeful and loving.