“Real Death” by Mount Eerie is about as literal as a song title can get. It is a song about death, and by gosh, is it ‘real.’
Phil Elverum, the man behind the moniker Mount Eerie, brings the ethereal concept of grief and loss out of the poetic realms, sticks it in our faces and shows us how it moves. The result is a song that will gut you, gut you again, and then, maybe, put you back together.
The Inspiration Behind the Song
Death became real for Elverum when he tragically lost his wife, musician and artist Geneviève Castrée, just four months after she gave birth to their daughter. During a postpartum check-up, doctors discovered she had stage four pancreatic cancer.
After she died, Elverum posted this update:
“She died at home with me and her parents holding her, hopefully having reached some last minute peace. It’s all very sad and surreal. So much is left unfinished for her. She was a fire-hose of brilliant ideas that never turned off. We loved her and everything is weird now.”
Mere months after this loss, Elverum started recording again.
“Real Death” by Mount Eerie Emerges
“Real Death” feels like less it was created by an artist trying to capture a sensation and more like a grief-stricken person who doesn’t have the energy for fancy words.
Elverum says as much himself in the song’s opening lines:
Death is realSomeone’s there and then they’re not And it’s not for singing about It’s not for making into art When real death enters the house, all poetry is dumb When I walk into the room where you were And look into the emptiness instead All fails
He goes on to list off all the things that fail in the midst of this grief: his brain, his knees, his words.
But things really get visceral during the second verse:
A week after you died a package with your name on it cameAnd inside was a gift for our daughter you had ordered in secret And collapsed there on the front steps I wailed A backpack for when she goes to school a couple years from now You were thinking ahead to a future you must have known Deep down would not include you
Receiving mail for a loved one who was there just a week ago brings the reality of loss to the forefront. Elverum captures the nauseating feeling of moving through a new world without that person.
But he ends on a somewhat defiant note. After saying it’s “dumb” and he “doesn’t want to learn anything from this,” Elverum ends the song with the words “I love you.” It may sound so insignificant in the face of such a loss, but it’s also the one thing he will never lose.