“It’s dumb/ I don’t want to learn anything from this/ I love you.” So ends Phil Elverum’s (who records under the moniker of Mount Eerie) “Real Death,” the lead single from his upcoming album A Crow Looked at Me.
Instrumentally, “Real Death” is as simple as Elverum has ever been. Ever since disbanding lo-fi rock/folk icons The Microphones, Elverum has been all over the place as Mount Eerie, even turning to black metal at one point. “Real Death” however, finds him turning in a very subdued and simple lo-fi approach, making the focus of the track the lyrics and what a focus they are. This is because both “Real Death” and A Crow Looked at Me as a whole are about the loss of his wife Genevieve to cancer and her leaving behind not only Phil, but their infant daughter as well.
“Real Death” doesn’t find Elverum holding back anything and even for an artist known for his honest lyricism, this is something else entirely. It is a blunt, anguished, and hopeless track in which Phil has difficulty singing straight and for that, it most definitely deserves your listen. Don’t expect to take anything meaningful from the track however, as even Elverum himself admits he doesn’t want “to learn anything from this.”
“Real Death” then, is not the sound of a man artistically expressing his thoughts on death and mortality in an effort to find some measure of meaning in his grief. No, it is pure undistilled grief made for no other purpose than letting that grief be known.
Both “Real Death” and an open letter describing the difficult process Elverum faced in making A Crow Looked at Me for Genevieve can be found on his bandcamp here.