Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) has always been on the backburner for me: a band that I knew existed, a band I could ostensibly tell you what they sounded like, but never one that I could specifically talk about. They were a band with a face (or faces, I guess) and a name, but that was all. I know, I know, I was probably seriously missing out on something, but that’s just the way they were for me.
It was this nagging feeling that I was missing something, though, that made me jump at the chance to review their highly anticipated new album I Am Very Far. This was my chance to get into a band I had always just missed. I’m happy to report that from the first incredibly bombastic and foot-stompingly great song—I was hooked. I have about eight years of records to go back and intently listen to now, and I could not be happier about it.
“The Valley” has already earned a spot among the best track 1 side 1’s of the year. It’s a ruckus-inducing, blustery song that starts off a ruckus-inducing, blustery record on the perfect note. After the energy shot of “The Valley” it’s impossible not to listen to the rest of the record, and somehow Okkervil River manages to keep everything at an appropriately high level of energy for the remaining 47 minute run time.
The immediacy of “The Valley” never lets up, due in part to the expansiveness of the music and in part to the ever present urgency of singer Will Sheff’s voice. Even the mellower songs later in the album, though, have magnetism to them that hooks you and refuses to let go. “Hanging on a Hit” and “Show Yourself” offer a break from the loudness, but the constant threat of an explosion is ever present – creating a spectacular line of tension through out the tracks.
The album works in part due to the grandiosity and overwhelming catchiness of the songs and in part because within the loudness and chaos, the vividly poetic lyrics are not lost. I Am Very Far merits listen after listen not just because the melodies worm their way into your head, but because every listen yields another line on par with “ fallen in the valley of the rock ‘n’ roll dead.”
From The Wild Honey Pie, 5/18/2011: http://www.thewildhoneypie.com/okkervil-rivers-i-am-very-far-8-0/