Okkervil River I Am Very Far

The temptation to enter an Okkervil River album through its lyrics is just as strong with I Am Very Far as it is with their other albums. But the tone’s different this time around: Will Sheff always impresses us with his wordplay and namedropping, but the first thing that jumps out here is the violence and terseness of his words. This violence touches nearly every song. Throats, in particular, get special attention: they’re slit, choked, hung by, left gasping. As a narrator Sheff can be cold and angry, so it’s almost disconcerting to encounter the forgiveness on these songs. “White Shadow Waltz” is packed with crashing strings and clanking metal, but feels quiet and lonely through Sheff’s portrait. So does another waltz, “Wake And Be Fine.” The light, airy “Your Past Life As A Blast” captures this mix perfectly — it’s the song that comes closest to the past heights of “Our Life is Not A Movie Or Maybe” and “For Real.” Joyous and bittersweet, its clean melody (and disco beat) get overtaken by echos and off-kilter drums, as if reality was intruding on a nice memory. And here, the subject’s lovely throat “… looks like a crime.” Just be glad it isn’t one.

I Am Very Far is out 5/10 via Jagjaguwar. Stream it at NPR.

Comments (13)
  1. These need to be longer…

    The Stereogum rating wasn’t the disappointing aspect of these evaluations, just the drop in length and quality. If we wanted a generic one paragraph review, we can wait until after the albums are actually released and go to one of the hundreds of other reviews. It’s better to have a long, thoughtful analysis of an unreleased album before the rest of the music blogosphere has a chance to weigh in, at least in my opinion.

  2. Agreed. I don’t think many people were against the rating system – just that the “reviews” have been abstract, pointless and short. They don’t need to say “buy this!” or “skip this!” – just have them point out the album’s strong points and weak points and get more in depth than “the lyrical tone in this one is darker.” This evaluation mentions three songs (briefly) and barely touches upon the actual sound of the album. BTW this is all just my opinion.

    • Got it. We’re experimenting w/ the format and feedback is appreciated!

      • I can also say that I used to look forward to premature evaluations of albums I had been hotly anticipating, and was always impressed with the quality of writing. This was the only place I went for this sort of analysis, pre-release. No disrespect intended with my comment above.

        • I second that. They were always interesting in long-form.

          • Longer is better, but keep it concise still. No flowery, brochurey mish-mash (see the Walkmen Lisbon edition).

            I’d like to see these examine any lyrical themes, as this edition does quite well, but also (and most importantly for me) put the sound of the album in perspective, as it relates to previous releases. Production style, instrumentation, album flow, etc.

      • Scott, I’ve already posted this on another thread, but I second the OP. These reviews are way too short, you’ve swung too far the other way.

        Of course with both this and The Antlers reviews, everyone can just hear the whole things streaming on NPR and make up their own minds.

  3. I agree with what everyone else says – more info. It’s too scattered and doesn’t tell you really anything about the album.

    Love the PE though. Keep up the great work!

  4. This album pretty much buries anything else I’ve heard this year.

    Lyrically it does, without a doubt.

  5. Review is way too vague, I can hardly tell if you liked the album or not.

    Here are some things you guys should improve one:

    -Don’t focus so much as to the length of your reviews but the depth of it. (Though this review has to be much longer.)

    -Bring back your star reviews but please don’t put an amount of stars to keep it on the safe side; really put what you think it deserves, when you briefly began the star reviews you put nothing but 3 and a half stars.

    -In my opinion you should get rid of the reader ratings, because most people just give it a good review if they like the band or bad ratings if they don’t they never base it on the actual album.

    -I would like it if you guys do a review when a major album has either leaked or been released; I like to see other readers opinions.

    That’s basically all I think you guys should work on, but keep the good work up with keeping the website going.

    I also thoroughly enjoyed this album, it’s one of their best works in my opinion.

  6. This album is fantastic and I wish the discussion here were about the music. Because, damn.

    Especially “Lay Of The Last Survivor.” I’ve listened to that more than any other song the last week or so. By a large margin.

    This, the new Dave Bazan and the new Bill Callahan are the best records this year so far. Even though this record doesn’t seem to have the obvious peaks of The Stage Names and Black Sheep Boy, it seems a lot more rich, and yeah, Sheff’s lyrics are in great shape.

  7. i like the shorter review almost as much as i like the removal of the star rating – there’s no point in writing all about it if all you’re going to do is assign it a number

    i have to admit, i was let down by the first few songs since the stage names is such a gut punch of a record, but this is the first truly slow burn of an okkervil river record. i never thought that would be a successful formula for will sheff & co. but around the middle of the album, they pull it off. i for one will be giving this multiple listens in the next few weeks and can safely add it to my top 5 of the year so far.

  8. Versant continues to impress. After a successful release, here comes a treat for fans. Check out some trendy tees at http://www.versantmusic.com/store/t-shirt-one/

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