Now Only is the ninth studio album produced by Phil Elverum under the stage name Mount Eerie. The loss of Elverum’s spouse, Geneviève Castrée, was the catalyst that drove him to make previous album A Crow Looked at Me, a heart-wrenchingly poignant work. Now Only follows on directly from this: It is a raw, touching examination of grief, love, and the inevitability of death.
‘Distortion’ begins, aptly, with a distorted, repeated note before fading out to an acoustic melody. Over the track’s eleven-minute runtime, Elverum appears to speak to Castreé’s spirit, remembering significant events in the past that he didn’t have the chance to share while she was alive – “That December I was shaken by a pregnancy scare/From someone that I’d been with for only one night.” He lays his soul bare, unafraid of judgment. ‘Earth’ evokes genuine discomfort, as Elverum relates the experience of finding pieces of his wife’s bones as he plays with their child in the garden – “I guess I didn’t bury you deep enough.” He makes a callback to ‘Seaweed’ from A Crow – “Another place I poured your ashes out/Was on a chair on top of a mountain pointed at the sunset.”
Now Only is a natural progression of Elverum’s grief – he sings about fond memories of his wife and seems to have made progress towards accepting her death, giving the album a more hopeful tone than A Crow, even if only slightly. The production has also shifted from stripped-back acoustic guitar lines to more layered melodies reminiscent of Elverum’s work in The Microphones.
In a nutshell: Now Only is a beautiful, occasionally unsettling album, best experienced back-to-back with A Crow Looked at Me.