Album Review: Okkervil River, "I Am Very Far"

The archetypal Okkervil River album song draws from folk and rock, and has a cyclical ascendant feel created by dense, throbbing guitar and piano notes, sonically broadened with robust drumming and soaring strings, topped off with the wistful singing of songwriter and producer Will Sheff. Alas, live they are not quite so impressive, let down as they are by Sheff's often atonal voice and permanent beta persona.

Their 2011 opus I Am Very Far stays with their winning studio formula, while taking a few interesting detours: Piratess brings to mind Holy Fuck's lo-tech electronica, and Your Past Life as a Blast has a frat boy Afropop feel.

These musical tangents probably reflect Sheff's search for a format that'll better suit him live. Most of the album, however, stays within their usual template, and as such makes for good listening, even though you might want to skip actual gigs.

Standout track Show Yourself starts with soft acoustic guitar and Sheff's delicate voice creating a maudlin mood of wind through grass or moonlight on ripples before the band skilfully ramp things up with burbling bass, echoey drums, spiralling guitars, and a feeling of rumbling euphoria. If only they could move that from the studio to the stage they would be world beaters!

Colin Liddell
Revenge of Riff Raff
14th December, 2013
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