Okkervil River – I Am Very Far Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far

Okkervil River will always be one of the bands I’m excited about. Every time I hear a new album is being released, it conjures up an excitement I rarely feel about new music. I fell into Okkervil River’s 2005 Black Sheep Boy and was instantly mesmerized. They were doing something interesting, poignant and impressive, unlike most other bands I was coming across at the time. These were not only great songs musically, but also lyrically – you need to spend time with them, exploring their every moment. Their records have often been referred to as concept albums. Considering all the potential problems with concept albums (getting too wrapped up in a story no one cares about, trying too hard to link the concept together, etc…) I agree that the songs on the album are focused on central themes, such as the difficulty of success in the music business and dealing with personal demons/regrets. But although the songs are relevant to each other, each stands just fine on its own.

I Am Very Far, the newest release from Okkervil River continues the trend. As with the albums they’ve released over the last few years, it will take quite a few listens to realize what the overarching message is. But that’s a part of the allure and what makes the album so successful; the message is not thrown in your face, crammed into your ears. Songwriter, Will Sheff, explores the theme from many different angles, dives into it, interprets it, and then scrambles it in any way he pleases. The result is thought-out, complicated, well written songs; something Okkervil River always achieves.

“Hanging From A Hit” may be my new favorite Okkervil River song. A serenely beautiful piece of music, it starts out with minimal, haunting instrumentation. As each verse progresses, more elements are added, building upon itself only to die down again into a lull. The pattern is repeated, with increasing intensity until it bursts with an eruption of loud desperation. The overall effect touches on nearly every emotion. It’s a pitch-perfect representation of mulling over something that’s upsetting; getting more agitated and confused, the longer you think about it.

Unfortunately, there are a few throwaway songs on the album. They just don’t hold the listener’s attention quite as well – making them feel out of place. They’re good enough to listen to every time through the album. But I don’t find myself excited about them, simply because it’s hard to appreciate a good song when so many great ones surround it. But then I get to the last three album tracks – subtle, intricate and complex in composition – and I immediately want to listen to the entire album again.

The final song on the album, “The Rise,” manifests Okkervil River’s penchant for exploring something new and challenging. The longest track on the album, it is essentially split into two parts. The first half, with a hammering piano part and call and response style vocals, definitely breaches new territory for the band. When this cuts off abruptly, leaving only sparse piano and screeching violin, the second half begins. As the instrumentation builds and intensifies, the word “down” is sung with an increasing ghostly tone. Everything becomes frantic, loud, uncomfortable, and eerily beautiful. As this wall of sound slowly dissipates, it’s impossible not to want more.

1. The Valley
2. Piratess
3. Rider
4. Lay Of The Last Survivor
5. White Shadow Waltz
6. We Need A Myth
7. Hanging From A Hit
8. Show Yourself
9. Your Past Life As A Blast
10. Wake And Be Fine
11. The Rise

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far, reviewed by Daniel G on 2011-05-16T09:17:51-07:00 rating 4.6 out of 5

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