Review Summary: The first full-size album released by the group, "Don't Fall In Love WIth Everyone You See" is Okkervil River at their best.Okkervil River
is a pretty special band. Will Sheff’s vocals encapsulate so much emotion, their happiest songs make me want cry. And as I am shedding my tears, I want to get up and dance, they fill me with such joy. Perhaps my example is a bit exaggerated, but I really do love his voice, and Okkervil’s style. They are quite folky, but get pretty upbeat as well. Their full-length debut, “Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See” is an amazing album. Released in January of 2002, it features the single “Kansas City”, and a score of other beautiful songs, making for a terrific record.
was spawned in a tiny high school in Meredith, New Hampshire. There, singer/songwriter frontman Will Sheff met the multifarious Zach Thomas and percussionist Seth Warren. All three shared a love for old American folk, which explains how they ended up together. However, college led to each musician heading their separate ways. Luckily, after college each ended up in Austin, Texas. In 1998 they formed Okkervil River
, going on to record their first small CD, “Stars Too Small To Live”. After that they toured for a bit, before deciding to focus on another record. With the addition of their at the time fourth permanent member Jonathan Meiburg, they recorded and released “Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See”. “Stars Too Small To Live”, Okkervil’s first record, was very dark, dwelling on sadness. This album feels a bit more homely and according to Sheff focuses more on love, however, it is still pretty depressing.
As far as the solidarity of the album goes, there is honestly not one poor track on the record, and it features several outstanding ones. My two personal favorites are the opener, “Red”, and “Westfall”. “Red” is a fictional track about a dancer longing for her separated daughter. It has a very melancholy feel, expressing the sadness and passion within the mother. Its gentle but beautiful chord progression and the magnificent vocal line make for one of my favorite verses ever. “Westfall”, driven by mandolin, is a murder story, referencing the “Yogurt Shop Murders” in Austin, Texas. It is a haunting song, buildling throughout and climaxing with a loud ending, with the vocals “Evil don’t look like anything” shouted over and over.
Those are my favorites, but like I said before, my love for does not overshadow the beauty of the rest of the record. “Happy Hearts” is a nice song, featuring a banjo line and soft background strings. “Dead Dog Song”, an autobiographical track about the death of Sheff’s own dog, is an upbeat folky number with a strong bluegrassy feel. “Listening to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas” is simple, but gorgeous. Building towards the end, it comforts you on a lonely day, as the whole record has the potential to due, oozing with Sheff’s dry sympathy, definitely a record to play in a time of suffering or frustration. “Lady Liberty” is another terrific track, with blasting horns driven by a bouncy bassline. An angry song about misplaced love, the song perfectly itemizes its lyrics. And finally, for those of you incorrectly pronouncing the band name, the final track on the record leaves no doubt about its elocution, beginning with “Down by Ock-er-vil River…” Its sole purpose however, is not just to correct ignorant listeners; rather, it is as wonderful as the rest of the album, with its plucky mandolin figure and fantastic refrain.
The album features horns, strings, accordion, cello and a number of other instruments on it, which mesh perfectly to make an outstanding record. It is charming country folk music with real emotional power behind it, comparable to Cash, or more easily Conor Oberst or Will Oldham. And as much as I’ve talked about Sheff, it is not just his album. The entire band's music is just as important, and just as well executed. “Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See” is quintessential Okkervil River
, a must have for fans of the group, and alt-country, or whatever you want to call the genre.
Okkervil River Song