Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2, the second collaborative album from Mount Eerie (Phil Elverum) and Julie Doiron.
The lore and music of Phil Elverum’s catalogue — and particularly the three albums following the death of his wife — is a constant reckoning with release in the most uncomfortable sense. Elverum isn’t writing about the concept of “release” in the empty, new-agey hypothetical way you’d hear from a bubbly yoga teacher’s mouth, but rather the idea of “release” from a place of survival that life often necessitates. But Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 doesn’t contain the visceral portraits of grief of A Crow Looked At Me and Now Only that detail the process and aftermath of the death of his wife and the mother of his daughter, but rather outlines the gentler, more willing letting go following his divorce.
Sonically, it’s more lenient than its predecessors — more of a sigh than a sob, making for a sparse mediation. The lyrics on Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 are often more obfuscated and filled with less tangible metaphor — perhaps because death is unavoidably tangible — but give us a handful of Elverum’s signature gutting vignettes like the day the tabloids reported his seperation (“Unwanted attention from an inhumane delirious absurd other world that keeps trying to eat you”) or the uprooting realities of divorce (“estranged, staying back with my parents”).
Here, Eric’s Trip singer Julie Doiron joins him on vocals for a second time after 2008s Lost Wisdom. Her presence is both a fresh, comforting salve, and a reminder of the two people and perspectives involved in an unmeshing. It shifts the tone of Elverum’s previous utter aloneness to signal a new, lighter breed of grief. Her performance is plain and beautiful, crossing imperfectly in and out and over Elverum’s — sometimes standing on its own — holding out or beginning a phrase often before or after one another like two people walking painfully out of step. The result is a different kind of breakup album. It’s absent of anger and bitterness, or even any uplifting, oversimplified lessons to be gleaned and proudly proclaimed. Their meditations and recountations happily lack a thesis, but exist only to exist.
They harmonize, imperfectly, throughout “Pink Light” over guitar chords filled with trepidation, describing falling in love in the pink light of an unexpected spring thats air is now filled with “human remains,” earnestly asking, “Could there be another spring?”
Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 might serve as a comfort to anyone who’s ever pondered their own fragility so deeply they’re convinced love might not be worth it. It’s proof that releasing someone, however messy or painful, is often itself an act of love and kindness. And for the album’s pain and questioning, Elverum imagines passing his daughter words of wisdom while on his deathbed on “Real Lost Wisdom”: “Love vehemently, like we did, without adverting your eyes. For love, it's worth it. Look into the fire.”
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, editor and creative producer and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.