Okkervil River
I Am Very Far


4.0
excellent

Review

by Keelan H. EMERITUS
May 10th, 2011 | 59 replies | 10,311 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: For Robin Smith:

Anyone who is in the liberal arts at university, or at least has partaken in a course or two, is fully of aware of the type of person Will Sheff is. He doesn’t act like he doesn’t care; we know he does. Not in the keener, annoyingly faux way of caring, either--the way that grates on you as said annoying keener raises their hand to answer every damn question the professor asks (usually getting it wrong in their condescending air of pretension). No; the Will Sheff persona cares deeply about what he reads and writes. He is an intense figure who strikes as mildly obsessive: he’s a little mad. In a good way, in a Samuel Beckett way, where you feel like he will become physically ill if he delves any further into thoughts of death, afterlife, and various other general existentialist woes. Will Sheff wears this intensity on his sleeves, and I Am Very Far is the band’s finest showcase of this intensity since Black Sheep Boy.

It may not appear so at first; the rather laid back feel of Okkervil River’s last effort, The Stand Ins, is continued on the first few tracks of the disc. It really isn’t until the gliding “Lay of the Last Survivor” that I Am Very Far falls into the groove that every great album has. This isn’t to say that the first three songs are in any way bad songs--“Rider” in particular has a great Bruce Springsteen vibe--but they don’t strike the same resonating chord of emotion that the latter half of the album seems to do on regular occurrence. This has a lot to do with Sheff’s vocal performance, which becomes increasingly unhinged as the album progresses. “We Need a Myth” might be the most passionate vocals Sheff’s mustered since The Stage Names’ closer “John Allyn Smith Sails”, with equally stirring lyrics of searching for hope, and something to hang on to: “I need a myth / brought back to life by a kiss.” The lyrical theme of the album seems to hang on this idea of love as a construction of the self, but perhaps the most important construction we have. As usual, Sheff has taken the cliché idea of unrequited love and turned it into something different, something interesting.

But unlike in the past, where Sheff walls his themes in rough sketches of “concept albums” (always in a thematic sense, never really in a narrative sense) and moody acoustics, here it is matched with Okkervil River’s most extroverted album to date. As with the aforementioned “Rider,” there seems to be a movement towards a brighter, fuller, and (dare-I-say) more radio-friendly sound. But Sheff doesn’t abandon his principles for commercial success here. The sometimes oblique lyricism, full of references to the history of rock n’ roll, is matched with the subtle sonic experimentations, such as the noisy guitar solo climax of "Show Yourself," that have found their way into every Okkervil River album (see: Black Sheep Boy’s “In A Radio Song”). But at the same time, there is a movement towards something sharper and finer tuned than before--like the spritely melody of album highlight “Your Past Life is a Blast,” or the lovely ballad “Lay of the Last Survivor.” It may be a marriage of style that the old guard of Okkervil River fans might not appreciate at first, but at the same time I Am Very Far hardly feels as decisively different a record as, say, Bright Eyes’ The People’s Key, or Iron and Wine’s Kiss Each Other Clean.

And, to be rather blunt, it comes off as a better record than these two as well. I Am Very Far never feels like it is coming from a band in experimentation mode (negatively, that is); a band that doesn’t really know what they are doing. Okkervil River inhabits their new sonic direction so that the album never feels like a departure from the band’s catalogue, but rather a natural addition to it. I Am Very Far is certainly a more enthralling listen than The Stand Ins was; though it may lack some of the emotional impact of Down the River of Golden Dreams, or especially Black Sheep Boy, the album remains a welcomed addition into the work of a band who commands great quality-control.



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user ratings (91)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
robin EMERITUS (5)
'I Am Very Far' is Sheff's biggest myth....


Comments:Add a Comment 
thebhoy
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

JAMES JOYCE

DoubtGin
May 10th 2011



6748 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

pretty disappointing (I only listened to Black Sheep Boy so I dont know if their sound changed that much)

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

down down down downnn

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

1/3 of the comments on this thread are going to be Robin Smith quoting the album haha

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

like it was in a myth

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wait a second, this isn't a tyler, the creator review


klap
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

still not sure what i think of this. 3.5-4

Digging: The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

Athom
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



17197 Comments


I absolutely adore wake and be fine, but the rest of it feels like such a step down

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

whaaaaaaaat

cvlts
May 10th 2011



8954 Comments


boom headshot

Athom
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



17197 Comments


i talked about this with robin last week. i think will sheff is at his best when he's wordy, stripped down and intimate. i really don't care for the "bigger" approach. i knew it was coming but even The Stand In's had stuff like On Tour with Zykos that really hit with me.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the one thing that bothers me with this record is the production. it's like sheff stacked as much shit on top of everything else as he could and it sounds kind of cramped.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



17197 Comments


i was told one of the songs had like 40 guitar tracks on it. stuff like that really detracts

Itwasthatwas
May 10th 2011



762 Comments


wheres the best place to start with these guys?

Athom
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



17197 Comments


black sheep boy

Eko
May 10th 2011



2119 Comments


saw these guys open for arcade fire like two weeks ago, they seemed alright.

SeaAnemone
May 10th 2011



19729 Comments


'bigger' approach?
not sure I like the sound of that... I agree with Adam, I'd rather the music be there simply to highlight the lyricism (usually brilliant from what I've heard)

"King and a Queen" is like the epitome of how Okkervil River should sound.

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Black" is the best okkervil river song evaaah

Spare
May 10th 2011



5252 Comments


since when did this exist omg

Digging: Radiator Hospital - Torch Song

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 10th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

but the lyrics are still great... it's not like this is all that wildly different from other Okkervil River albums.



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