Premature Evaluation

Okkervil River I Am Very Far Premature Evaluation

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.