Published Nov 05, 2018In another life, Phil Elverum could have had Conor Oberst's career. A wunderkind recording wiz who made beguiling DIY recordings in the late '90s, Elverum opted to shun the spotlight afforded to him after 2001's Microphones album, The Glow Pt. 2, became a critical success. Retreating to his native Anacortes, WA, he's since followed his own path, leaving an string of unpolished and unpredictable albums and seven-inches in his wake.
Yet his influence is as sprawling as his catalogue. Everyone from the small coterie of Pacific Northwest musicians he records with, to a new generation of lo-fi MCs, count his music among their favourites. Meanwhile, his prolific output and penchant for repurposing and remixing his own work has spawned a small, but dedicated fan base always searching for the next piece of his ever-expanding musical world.
The tragic death of his wife Geneviève Castrée in 2016, and the subsequent recordings on which he's processed that loss, ironically brought newfound attention to his work. This month sees the release of Mount Eerie's (After), a live album of tracks from 2017's A Crow Looked At Me and this year's Now Only, capping off a difficult period for Elverum even as he settles into a new life in Brooklyn with new wife, actor Michelle Williams, and their two children. "These death songs," he tells Exclaim!, "I sort of view them as their own island that hopefully I'll pass through. Right now I'm not really working on anything. I'm just busy with life."
1978 to 1995
Phil Elverum is born on May 23 in Anacortes, WA, 90 minutes north of Seattle. He is not brought up in any specific religion, but describes his parents as being mystical about nature. Elverum's father makes mixtapes for him and his sister filled with kid-friendly oldies, especially the Beatles and the Beach Boys, which as a ten-year-old, is one of Elverum's favourites. "I think that as a kid I was pretty drawn to melodrama," he'll tell Pitchfork in 2009. "There's comfort in being sad even at an early age." He plays tuba in the school band. "I thought it would be funny. But it wasn't and I couldn't quit because I was the only tuba player," he tells Exclaim! now. "So I did that for three years."
Around the same time, he begins playing drums using his neighbour's kit. He begins listening to hip-hop and learns about artists like U2, Bob Dylan and Neil Young from his dad's copies of Rolling Stone, "who seemed like they were born famous, or bands like New Kids on the Block, who come out full-formed already famous." Nirvana's Nevermind opens the doors to the idea of more aggressive and, crucially, local music. "In small towns around the world people's awareness of subcultures expanded a little bit," he says of Nirvana's influence. "Looking at them, the way they dressed, they just seemed like you could see their past form regular person to magazine cover, superficially, and it made you realize that that path existed for me too, and for everyone else," he says now.
He discovers local Anacortes band Gravel, whose album Break-A-Bone becomes a lifelong favourite, as does Eric's Trip's Love Tara; he writes fan mail to the Moncton band. "They had a little label that would put out seven-inch singles and different things from their small town, and I would just order everything," he'll tell Pitchfork in 2009.
Around the age of 14, he forms his own band, Nubert Circus, whose songs are mostly about food. He plays drums and writes lyrics. He begins setting up shows as well as learning to play guitar in his room. Elverum and his friends follow the "clues" from Nirvana to Sub Pop Records, to K Records and finally Beat Happening. Eventually they realized that Beat Happening member Bret Lunsford not only lives in their town, but runs the local record store, the Business. After hanging around the store being "celebrity-struck," Elverum is offered a job by Lunsford, who becomes something of a mentor to the teenager.
He begins experimenting with the eight-track reel-to-reel in the back of the Business, which catches Lunsford's ear. Elverum is invited to join Lunsford's band D+, playing drums with fellow Anacortes native Karl Blau. Their debut release is a seven-inch called Book that is part of the International Pop Underground series on K Records, the label run by Lunsford's Beat Happening bandmate Calvin Johnson.
Lunsford releases the cassette-only Microphone, Elverum's first release as the Microphones, on his own Knw-Yr-Own label. Like much of his early material, lyrics mostly revolve around his passion: recording techniques and gear. Another self-titled cassette release under the name X-Ray Means Woman follows.
Before having actually met him, Elverum calls K head and Beat Happening singer Calvin Johnson, who also runs the Olympia, WA recording studio Dub Narcotic. "I asked him, 'I don't know what I want to do with my life, but I love recording and I was wondering if I could be your apprentice at Dub Narcotic Recording Studios.' He was like, 'Uhhhhh...'" Elverum says now. "I recognize now how strange of a question that would be – it was just a rag tag operation." In the mid-2000s he'll tell Diskant.net "I have never been an actual 'punk' in the way where I listened to a bunch of 'punk' music. My introduction to 'punk' ideas was through the lens of Olympia, WA and K Records, which is founded on the idea that punk is a way of doing a thing, not the thing itself."
In the summer, Elverum attends the YoYo A GoGo music festival in Olympia, WA. He moves there soon after to to attend Evergreen State College. "It seemed like the obvious thing to do. I liked a bunch of K records stuff; I thought I should go to a college," he'll tell freewilliamsburg.com in 2002. His relationship with Lunsford gains him quick entry and acceptance into the local music scene. D+ release their self-titled debut on Knw-Yr-Own and K Records. Elverum releases Microphone Mix as another cassette-only release on Knw-Yr-Own; Blau and Elverum are the only credited players. The Wires + Cords cassette follows soon after; both are released as the Microphones.
A fourth Microphones cassette, Tests, is released. Despite their awkward phone introduction, Johnson gives Elverum a key to Dub Narcotic. "That was my apprenticeship. 'Here's a key, Go figure it out,'" he recalls. He spends as much time as he can at the studio, dropping out of college after two quarters. Some of the material he records, combined with selections from his previous releases, make up his first CD, confusingly also called Tests. It's released on Elsinor Records. Up Records, early home to fellow Pacific Northwest groups Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, releases Bass Drum Dream on seven-inch. D+ release Dandelion Seeds on K/Knw-Yr-Own. Elverum joins Arrington De Dionyso's band Old Time Relijun on drums. They take a then-unknown artist named Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, who performs as Mirah, on her very first tour down the West coast.
Johnson takes note of Elverum's work and releases what's considered the debut Microphones full-length, Don't Wake Me Up, on K Records. It combines the experimentalism of early Microphones releases with a growing interest in lo-fi rock and folk. Mirah contributes vocals and the two artists head out on tour together.
This is the first time Elverum is able to connect with an audience, and he builds a small following. Rather than trying recreate the dense studio versions of his record, he opts to break his songs down to "get out the underlying idea of what the song is." Elverum releases a further two Microphones seven-inches: Moon Moon on K Records, and Feedback (Life, Love, Loop) on the Bedtime Records.
The Microphones follow up their debut with It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, again on K, and Elverum produces Mirah's debut, You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This. Allmusic calls the latter "a true indie rock triumph." The Microphones also release the EP Window on YoYo Records. Mirah contributes vocals and guitar.
The Microphones release The Glow Pt. 2 on K Records in September. Reviews from underground and online publications are ecstatic, with many noting the expansive sound Elverum manages to squeeze out of lo-fi gear. "This album simply must be listened to on headphones. Hearing the record on regular speakers is like staring at the Grand Canyon through a Viewmaster," writes Pitchfork's Matt LeMay in his original review.
"It's not like I am into having crappy instruments and making crappy sounding records," Elverum will tell freewilliamsburg.com the following summer. "I just have crappy instruments and I find ways to make the 'crappiness' so huge and impressive that it sounds more rich and beautiful than 'non-crappy' instruments."
Pitchfork names it the best album of the year, and in 2009, the 73rd best album of the decade. It hits #5 on Tiny Mixtapes' similar list.
To support the record, Elverum heads out on "The Paper Opera Tour," playing gigs across North America and Europe. Adding to an already busy year, the Microphones' Blood is the first record released on St. Ives, a vinyl-only label distributed by Bloomington, IN label Secretly Canadian. It's limited to just 300 handmade copies and features alternate versions of songs from The Glow Pt. 2. The Moon seven-inch, credited to the Micro Phones, appears on Instatone Brand, while the Microphones' Singers I Can't Believe You Actually Died, a seven-inch of "sing-along" style tracks featuring many of Elverum's regular contributors, including Lunsford, Johnson and Mirah, comes out on Comin in Second. Elverum leaves Old Time Relijun.
On February 2, the Microphones record Little Bird Flies Into a Big Black Cloud in a single day (02/02/02). It's released on St. Ives and is limited to 400 copies on vinyl. "Usually, I keep the first take, first or second take, but will try different ways of recording it," he tells the sweetthunder.org. "I'm pretty sloppy with it. I really don't worry about it that much. I just turn the mic up or whatever. I turn the sound up if it's going through an echo machine or have the mic far away. I get the sound and go for the feeling rather than the precise take."
He produces Mirah's Advisory Committee, which is released in March. It's followed by her Cold Cold Water EP in April. Elverum heads out on another North America/European tour, this time performing solo. "I'm going all by myself for six weeks just driving around the country... ," he tells sweetthunder.org. "I'm pretty intimidated by the idea of it, but it seems like it could be good."
The Microphones release the seven-inch Lanterns (Let Go Of Everything) on K as part of their International Pop Underground series. In August, K releases Song Islands, a collection of Microphones singles and rarities. D+ release Mistake on K/Knw-Yr-Own. Elverum spends the winter in a remote Norwegian cabin and has little contact with anyone else. "Having that much time alone with yourself was basically a meditation retreat that was unaffected by anyone else," he'll tell Vice in 2013.
In January, the Microphones release Mount Eerie, an album named after Mount Erie, the tallest peak near Anacortes. It features five long songs, with a narrative summed up by one interviewer as "you die, are eaten by vultures, and then in your bodiless invisible form you realize the size of the universe as it unfolds in 3D." It's Elverum's most sprawling and dense work to date.
"The way I write songs, or think about albums, and the way they flow together,…is in terms of telling a story and different scenes and different characters coming and reappearing," he tells Sweethunder.org.
K also releases The Singing from Mount Eerie and The Drums from Mount Eerie; each features the singing and drums from the Mount Eerie album in isolation, plus one bonus track not included on the original album.
Elverum announces his intention to retire the Microphones; he'll now perform under the name Mount Eerie. "The Microphones was completed, or at least at a good stopping point," he tells Discorder. "I am not satisfied with the ending of Mount Eerie the album, so maybe by calling myself that, I am attempting to elaborate on the ending." Looking back on the decision to change names, in 2005 he'll tell Diskant, "I was at a point in my life where I felt like I was a different person. I wanted to mark it as different. I don't know what the difference actually is."
Elverum meets Quebecois artist and musician Geneviève Castrée, who lives in Victoria, BC. They're introduced through mutual friends for whom she booked some local shows. They marry soon after and both move back to Elverum's hometown, Anacortes. Castrée joins Elverum's touring band, though the two keep their relationship relatively quiet. "Before meeting her I used to be pretty open and write songs about whatever specific turmoil I was going through. But when I met her, I felt like, 'No, this is different, this is too special to share with the world.' I couldn't sing about it. We lived in this bubble of privacy," he'll tell The Atlantic in 2018. In a contemporaneous interview with Discorder about the Mount Eerie tour, he says "the tour has felt more like a honeymoon than a tour. That's the theme. Living love." D+ release Deception Pass on Knw-Yr-Own.
A transitional year for Elverum. He produces Mirah's C'Mon Miracle, which is released in May, and his friend Adrian Orange's Thanksgiving record, Welcome Nowhere, which he releases it through his new record label, P.W. Elverum & Sun. He also records and mixes Castrée's Pamplemoussi.
Seven New Songs of "Mount Eerie" is sold as an Australian tour-only CD-R with hand-sewn sleeves. Credited to Mount Eerie, it's the first of three low-key releases to bear the moniker. A separate twelve-inch, Two New Songs of Mount Eerie, recorded live to acetate in Australia, is also released, as is the triple vinyl Live in Copenhagen. Still, Elverum wasn't quite done with the Microphones; K releases Recorded Live in Japan February 19th, 21st & 22nd, 2003 in February.
Elverum considers No Flashlight — Songs of the Fulfilled Night to be the first official Mount Eerie album. The full-length includes what's purported to be the world's largest album fold-out — a three-and-a-half-by-five foot illustration. Castrée and Jason Wall contribute to several songs.
It's the marquee release in a busy year for Elverum. The Drums From "No Flashlight" is issued with screen-printed record sleeves. "Elverum is writing/singing from (and towards and into) a new place, where instinct is favoured over intellect," writes Exclaim!'s Sarah Greene in a retrospective review. Eleven Old Songs of Mount Eerie features Elverum performing songs written between 2002 and 2003 on Casio keyboard. The tracks from 2004's Two New Songs are reissued, with different names, as Mount Eerie Dances with Wolves on P.W. Elverum & Sun. Singers collects large group "sing-along recordings" Elverum had captured over the years; Calvin Johnson and Mirah are among the many contributors.
Five songs from his April gig in Anacortes are made available as a free online download called Nobody's Perfect. The 2 Songs seven-inch, featuring full-band live tracks recorded at Toronto's Music Gallery in 2004, is released as part of Twenty Bees subscription series. It's limited to 20 copies and sells out before its even released. He also contributes another live track from the same Toronto gig to a split seven-inch with the Love of Everything. "I Whale" is a single-sided seven-inch whose flip features a silk-screened image drawn by Elverum.
He also records a soundtrack to an unreleased Canadian short film called The Last Hit. Its bandcamp entry explains that "it was about a few people wandering lost in the woods on a failed 'hit' job (like, a murder), lost and hungry, occasionally seeing dramatic landscapes. There is an obvious inspiration taken from Dead Man and this soundtrack embraces that."
D+ release No Mystery on Phil Elverum and Suns.
Mount Eerie Pts 6 & 7 is a four-song ten-inch included in a 132-page art book featuring photos from the first ten years of Elverum's recording career. The songs are intended as a sequel to the Microphones' Mount Eerie album, picking up where the narrative its five tracks left off. In July Issue #14 of Jimi Sharp's Fidalgo Island's Beautiful (FIB) zine is sold at Anacortes, WA music festival What-The-Heck. Limited to 250 copies, it includes a limited edition manually dubbed "reissue" of the Microphones release Jimi Sharp: Man of Mystery on cassette. The recordings were originally given to Sharp after he asked Elverum for recordings of a couple songs he'd heard played live. The recordings are believed to be from the time of Elverum's early, cassette only Microphones releases. Mount Eerie's set from the fest is later released as a limited edition DVDr called Fog Movies Live.
The Microphones Don't Smoke/Get of the Internet seven-inch comes out on Phil Elverum and Suns label. Elverum appears on and mixes The Watery Graves of Portland and Geneviève, a collaboration between his wife and the experimental jazz group. He also records Castrée's Tout Seul Dans La Forêt En Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur? which she releases under the name Woelv.
Released in October, Lost Wisdom sees Elverum team up with Fred Squire and Julie Doiron. The pair were heading to Olympia for a recording session and stopped in to visit and ended up making recording an album's worth of material together. The recordings are mostly live off the floor, recorded with a single mic. It's released in October.
"Meeting Julie through music and playing a few shows together over the years has been really kind of weird and a dream come true," he'll tell Pitchfork in 2009. "Eric's Trip is still a huge influence on me. The style of those recordings and the rawness of them is very inspiring. And the density of the distorted parts, amazing," he tells songfact.com in 2013.
D+ release What is Doubt, a new studio album, and On Purpose, a collection of singles, rarities and live tracks. The record is hand-numbered, limited to 700 and released in a screen printed mailer sleeve. The Black Wooden Ceiling Opening ten-inch captures a single day session performed by Elverum, Jason Anderson and Kjetil Jenssen.
At the end of the year, Buenaventura Press releases Dawn, a 144-page journal of sorts featuring writing and images collected during the three-month period over the winter of 2002-2003 Elverum spent in a Norwegian cabin. It's accompanied by a CD of songs written during this same period.
Elverum and Vancouver artist Nick Krgovich's No Kids project release a split seven-inch for their European tour. He contributes to Mirah's The Old Days Feeling and reissues The Glow Pt. 2 on his own label. "I don't feel a connection to it really cause I've heard it so many times," he says of the record. "It's hard for me to listen to it and not be aware of perceptions of it or people talking to me about it. It's hard to just hear it as music," he tells Exclaim! now.
Wind's Poem is recorded with Krgovich between February 2008 and March 2009. The record is partly inspired by the extremity of black metal. "This idea of the darkest, heaviest music appealed to me because I'd always been into extremes," he tells Exclaim! "What's the loudest most extreme, dense sound I can make and the quietest sound I can make and how do I combine them?"
The first of three planet-themed records, it's released in July. He heads out for a full band tour. In creating the lineup it's Elverum's intention — for the first time — to try and recreate the sounds of the album live. He incorporates two drummers, a gong and keyboards. "I like the experience being in the audience and being overwhelmed by sound, like thick, oppressive loud sound and distortion," he tells Exclaim! "I wanted to make a show like that which is really hard to pull off I discovered."
In April, he moves into the White Stag building in Portland at the invitation of the Publication Studio organization. Built on land that is supposedly near where Portland was founded, its a collection of four-track recordings "with the presence of the building clearly audible." The resulting ten-inch, White Stag, is released in May. The six-track Black Wooden EP appears at the end of the year. Elverum also produces and performs on Mirah's (a)spera.
Released in October, Song Islands Vol 2 collects rare and unreleased tracks from across the Mount Eerie catalogue. Elverum takes a year off from touring and builds and moves into a new Anacortes recording studio called The Unknown, which is housed in an old church. It's open to the public with himself and Nicholas Wilbur acting at the two two in-house producers and studio engineers. "It was the first time I've ever really done that in 12 years. I learned how to sit on the couch in front of the fire and read a magazine, just for like eight hours a day, everyday. It was... crazy. It was actually kind of challenging to come back out of that into being productive again. But now I understand domesticity!" he tells Pitchfork in 2012.
Elverum contributes "I Lost My Mind," credited to the Microphones, to the five-way split seven-inch that includes the Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne and Bishop Allen called Collaborate with a 1940s Wire Recorder. Elverum recorded the track live to a wire recorder, a precursor to magnetic tape, in 2007.
Completing his nature-themed trilogy, Mount Eerie releases Clear Moon in May and Ocean Roar in September. The two records are later paired as a double album and Clear Moon/Ocean Roar (Condensed Versions) appears as a seven-inch "They're a pair. They go together aesthetically, logistically. But I also didn't want to make them be one double album. So it's kind of an experiment to see if it was possible to put out two that were linked as a pair. I think it went pretty well," he'll tell SongFacts.com the following year. The records were recorded together at the Unknown as a way for Elverum to get used to the new space. The collection of recordings were split into two records after the fact. "A lot of stuff got thrown away or taped over, just because it was so deeply experimental. And a lot of it was kinda bad. But these albums came out of that experimenting," he tells Pitchfork. In September he heads out on a full-band tour. Mount Eerie also releases a split with Selector Dub Narcotic K Records, contributes to the Tomblab Umlaut Single Series and releases the "To the Ground" seven-inch.
Despite massive leaps in digital recording tech, Elverum remains committed to analogue tape. "I spend so much time on the computer already doing other aspects of the record label work, like designing and packing orders and booking tours. So getting a respite from the screen to actually record music is pretty nice," he tells songfact.com. Nevertheless, Pre-Human Ideas is recorded in Garageband with Elverum's voice filtered through Auto-Tune. They're recordings, with some added material, meant to be instructional guides for band members who helped him bring the previous year's Clear Moon and Ocean Roar to life onstage. He also releases a pair of Mount Eerie live recordings, Live in Seattle Sept 7, 2013 and Live in Bloomington, September 30, 2011. Live with Odeon Quartet is a live seven-inch performed by Mount Eerie with the Odean Quartet and Nick Krogvich. He also remasters his four Microphones records as well as Song Islands, and reissues them through his own label.
Joyful Noise releases the Mount Eerie flexi-disc "Emptiness (Version)." It's limited to 1000 copies.
Mount Eerie release Sauna in February. Elverum mixes Castrée's Ô Paon record, Fleuve. Following the birth of their daughter, Agathe, she sees a doctor for a routine postpartum checkup and some abdominal pain. A few weeks later she is diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer.
In January lo-fi MC Lil Peep drops his California Girls EP. The track "Beamer Boy" samples The Glow Pt 2. track "Headless Horseman." In the fall he drops "White Wine" which samples the The Glow Pt. 2 instrumental "(Something)."
In February, it's revealed that K Records is deep in debt, owing thousands of dollars to artists like Elverum, Kimya Dawson and many others. "Yes, it's true that [K owes] me a bunch of money and that communication about this over the years has been pretty difficult. But lately there have been some real efforts to fix it and pay the back payments," he tells The Stranger. Reclaiming his back catalogue from the label enables him to stop the debt from increasing. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the label's headquarters in Olympia up for sale in an effort to square his debts. "They were always doing pretty badly, but covering it up and staying afloat and keeping putting out weird stuff," Elverum tells Exclaim!, of K. "I'm still friends with him. I like him a lot. And I recognize that the money stuff aside, the doors that he opened for me personally and for other people are pretty significant."
In June, Elverum and Castrée set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical bills and other costs associated with Castrée's illness. "We don't know what the future holds and how long this uncertainty will last. In any case, the amount we've spent over the last year alone has left us in a precarious financial position as a family," writes Elverum on the page. Castrée dies on July 9 surrounded by Elverum and her parents. "It's all very sad and surreal. So much is left unfinished for her. She was a firehose of brilliant ideas that never turned off. We loved her and everything is weird now," writes Elverum on her GoFundMe page.
In December, Elverum releases the Microphones Early Tapes 1996-1998 on Phil Elverum and Suns. As the title suggests, it collects selections from the Microphones early cassette recordings.
In March, Elverum releases A Crow Looked at Me. Work began on it the previous September and was recorded in the couple's bedroom where Castrée died. Inspired by the Gary Snyder poem "Go Now" it is sparse and stark, using only acoustic guitar and a laptop. Elverum confronts Castrée's death head on in plain-spoken lyrics that leave little room for interpretation.
"I felt compelled to open up totally to the world again. It was scary to make that leap," he tells The Atlantic. The album was recorded in the couple's bedroom. It received some of the best and most mainstream reviews and notices of his career. "People are relating in a way that is so open and human. So the thing I learned from the album was that everyone is much kinder and more mature than I expected."
In March, Elverum releases Now Only, a companion to A Crow Looked At Me. Though written and performed in a similar style to his previous album, where that record explored the rawness of grief and loss, Now Only is about memory and acceptance. "It wasn't over. I had more to say still. And I didn't want to stay in that feeling of A Crow Looked at Me. I knew the only way out of it was to continue writing songs. There wasn't even really a gap in the production. I just kept writing," he tells The Atlantic.
In August, D+ release Destroy Before Listening, their first album in ten years, on Bandcamp. For an extra $10 fans can get shards from a "custom destroyed" CD-R of the album from the band. (After) a live album recorded in an old church in the Netherlands at the 2017 Le Guess Who? Festival, arrives in September. It features performances of songs from A Crow Looked at Me and Now Only. In a July Vanity Fair cover story film star Michelle Williams reveals that she and Elverum had married earlier in the month in the Adirondacks, having been introduced to one another by a mutual friend. That same month, Elverum and Agathe move to Brooklyn to live with Williams and her own daughter, Matilda. Speaking with Exclaim! Elverum admits that with (After) capping off a particularly tumultuous period of his life, he's unsure of his next move. "I've got this new life and family shape," he tells Exclaim! "There's just so much that I have to let settle down. I need some time to write songs and work on my thing, but I'm just living my life and doing family stuff and letting inspiration come when it comes. But I also don't feel a desperate need to keep pushing myself into people's faces to stay cool and relevant. I'm artistically satisfied and happy."
The Essential Phil Elverum
The Glow Pt. 2 (2001)
Simultaneously intimate and expansive, this is the record that brought Elverum to the attention of music fans outside the Pacific Northwest and, via the many natural sounds he incorporates into the recordings, the Pacific Northwest to music fans. A landmark in DIY recording in the analog era, The Glow Pt. 2's reputation has nevertheless persisted because of Evelrum's ability to blend intimacy with sharp-songcraft.
Wind's Poem (2009)
Inspired by the all encompassing extremity of black metal, Wind's Poem finds Elverum simultaneously pushing Mount Eerie's sound to its most loud and expansive and quiet and small. Much of Elverum's material has an unfinished quality to it, but here he perhaps comes the closest to what many would consider a complete and polished set of recordings.
A Crow Looked at Me (2017)
Recorded at home with a single mic and a laptop in the wake of the death of his wife, A Crow Looked at Me confronts mortality in a head-on in stripped-down, plain-spoken manner rarely seen or heard. As beautiful as it is heartbreaking, the record rightly won Elverum some of the best reviews of his career.