It’s been a little over a year since our Mount Eerie episode, but more importantly, it’s been a little over a year since the release of A Crow Looked at Me, Phil Elverum’s bleak, uncomfortably direct meditation on the death of his wife, Geneviève Castrée. And in a way the period of time since that work is the subject of today’s episode, as Mount Eerie’s latest album, Now Only, reckons with the grieving process, memory, what time does to death, and life after Crow.
So as you can imagine, this was a pretty intense episode to make. But the thing is, Now Only isn’t intimidating in the way that A Crow Looked at Me was. In fact, it’s almost welcoming, sharing memories, bits of gallows humor, and legitimately catchy (if very bleak) “choruses” among its darkest moments. It’s a warmer, more musical album, where the emotional moments hit hard not because of their stark alienation, but because you can feel them too. So this isn’t another “O Superman” B-Side—instead, it’s a reflection on generosity, shared emotional response, and the incredible talent at the heart of Mount Eerie.
Now Only is a beautiful album that you shouldn’t be afraid of, and I hope this episode is able to convey some of that. If nothing else, it was at least one last shining beacon of good music before the month gets infinitely worse.
We’re going straight to the top, fellow Waitsmas celebrants! Or, at least, y’all are—Max is deathly ill and coughing all over this track. But we aren’t going to let a little thing like death get in the way of talking about one of the weirdest and most wonderful live films we’ve seen: Tom Waits’ Big Time. As the ersatz “t’s a Wonderful Life of the season, Big Time is an odd one, since its nearly impossible to find rather than everywhere always, but Waitsmas is all about making life a lot harder than it needs to be, right?
Filmed hot off the heels of his Franks Wild Years tour, dubbed by many to be his greatest ever, Big Time bucks the cinéma vérité style of films like Stop Making Sense for a more surreal, imagistic pastiche, blending live footage with odd, go-nowhere vignettes and singular fever dreams. It’s more “visual companion” than “concert film”, while still delivering some truly bone shakin’ performances from a band packed with all-time greats like Marc Ribot and Ralph Carney that tear through the material—all plucked from his post-Swordfishtrombones output—like a pack of drunken robot dogs. You heard me. Drunken robot dogs. Oh lord, I think the Mucinex is kicking in~~~~. Also: the heartbreak of modern dating apps, an extensive interlude on World of Tomorrow 2, and perhaps the only time anyone has ever compared Tom Waits to Madonna.