Phil Elverum’s wife, illustrator and musician Geneviève Castrée, died in July, a year after being diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and a year after giving birth to their first child. Elverum spent the following fall recording a new Mount Eerie album in the room where she died, using her guitar, her bass, her amp, and her accordion. That album, A Crow Looked At Me, is coming out in March, and first single “Real Death” is absolutely devastating in its frank articulation of grief. “Death is real,” Elverum sings in the song’s opening lines. “Someone’s there and then they’re not. And it’s not for singing about. It’s not for making into art.” Listen and read Elverum’s lengthy personal statement about why he made the album below.
Why share this much? Why open up like this? Why tell you, stranger, about these personal moments, the devastation and the hanging love? Our little family bubble was so sacred for so long. We carefully held it behind a curtain of privacy when we’d go out and do our art and music selves, too special to share, especially in our hyper-shared imbalanced times. Then we had a baby and this barrier felt even more important. (I still don’t want to tell you our daughter’s name.) In May 2015 they told us Geneviève had a surprise bad cancer, advanced pancreatic, and the ground opened up. ‘What matters now?’ we thought. Then on July 9th 2016 she died at home and I belonged to nobody anymore. My internal moments felt like public property. The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea leftover from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now, and these songs poured out quickly in the fall, watching the days grey over and watching the neighbors across the alley tear down and rebuild their house. I make these songs and put them out into the world just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known.
DEATH IS REAL could be the name of this album. These cold mechanics of sickness and loss are real and inescapable, and can bring an alienating, detached sharpness. But it is not the thing I want to remember. A crow did look at me. There is an echo of Geneviève that still rings, a reminder of the love and infinity beneath all of this obliteration. That’s why.
01 “Real Death”
04 “Forest Fire”
06 “My Chasm”
07 “When I Take Out The Garbage At Night”
08 “Emptiness pt. 2″
10 “Soria Moria”
A Crow Looked At Me is out 3/24 on P.W. Elverum & Sun.