Okkervil River will pound on its snare and will pound on your soul. This is the brand of pound that weighs your heart down into a field of dandelions baking under the Tangelo sunset or drops you into a boot-stomping basement full of neon lights and beautiful faces — either way the hammering of love is relentless.
I Am Very Far
I Am Very Far, Okkervil’s sixth full-length album, departs from their previous records, as it is less of a holistic statement and more a collection of eleven distinguished, bloody, blossoming tracks driven out of lead singer and songwriter, Will Sheff.
The depth and tender, mysterious integrity that is obvious in Okkervil’s latest work is supported by the knowledge that Sheff shared in an interview with Pitchfork: “I went to stay with my grandparents for a while. They live out in the middle of nowhere and I would have breakfast with them, then write all day. At night we’d have dinner and cocktails, my grandfather would tell me his World War II stories, and then I’d start the process all over again.”
The record is cracked open into excellence (handclaps, syncopation and a gunshot) with opening track “The Valley.” A hip hop semblance conquers this song as Sheff throws down “We were fallen on the border with the rock and roll singed. Times ten” — his rap-like-delivery synchs up with the power-driven bass.
“Rider,” presently No. 1 on Okkervil River’s iTunes page, propels the forceful energy of I Am Very Far and masters the slightly predictable but incredibly satisfying catchy-rock of Springsteen — lyrical repetition mastering the pound.
“We Need a Myth” succeeds as piano melodies, brief shreds of electric guitar and strings conjoin with vividly dark lyrics like “Show me the world as it was again / As it was in a myth / A red ribbon to reconnect / The lady’s head to her neck / And to forget that her throat / Was ever slit.”
The punch of the majority of tracks on their sixth LP is complimented by the under-toned “Mermaid” and “Show Yourself,” which share a sad and soft instrumental environment.
“Show Yourself” orchestrates itself into an eloquent and highly dimensional song, minimalistic drumming and vocals lofting themselves into poignancy.
Within a 51-minute mix of solemn shimmer, Sheff created a singular slurred track, “Your Past Life as a Blast,” that is lyrically and atmospherically timeless.
The shortest and arguably most galvanizing song that these fine Texas natives offer on their latest record, “Wake and Be Fine,” was Okkervil fans’ sneak peek to the new sound when the band performed live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, fiercely accompanied by the New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman and The Roots.
I Am Very Far is not a grandiose statement, but not shy either.
Although the latest record isn’t making an obnoxiously rebellious statement against the prior albums that have brought Okkervil River indie-rock fame, it is a more loosely held together LP than The Stand Ins. The consequence that bounces from this great abandon is that Sheff and his six bandmates display a temerity set gorgeously ablaze in these loosened gaps that could be criticized for lack of being a concept-album.
In an interview with Pitchfork about I Am Very Far, Sheff said: “I think there’s something about art where it should threaten people and scare them and make them feel uncomfortable … I like art that makes you a little worried.”
Sheff’s perspective radiates a sincerity of sharpened edges that shows in Okkervil’s 2011 album. What listeners might be most worried about is when their eager ears and ardent souls will be re-fed with fresh pounds.