Okkervil River play sprawling songs of love lost. - Oh My Rockness

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Okkervil River play sprawling songs of love lost.

November 3, 2005
Okkervil River writes poetry meant for the stage, rather than the page. This is complex, "smart" rock that even a dummy like me can appreciate. I may not entirely understand songwriter Will Sheff's linguistic word games (what the hell is an "abecedarian?"), but, nonetheless, I participate in his musical melancholy with enchanted attention. Okkervil River hits you where it hurts, even without a handy dictionary or doctoral degree.

Austin's Okkervil River play sprawling folk-bluegrass-pop, mostly sad jams, that are only poignantly possible with steel guitars, mandolins, Wurlitzer, horns, strings and keys. The pensive poems penned around these dense and immense sounds are sung by Sheff, a man whose cracking voice could chink even a metal man's heart. There is a kind of heartbreaking fragility to Okkervil River's songs, and Sheff is quite aware that his highly personal parables leave him vulnerable to either audience adulation or attack. In fact, Sheff gets so nervous singing that he takes his glasses off so as not to see the recipients of his insecurities.

Their most recent album, Black Sheep Boy, will be on a billion Top 10 Lists of 2005. The eleven songs of longing that make up the record have been compared to the best of Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists and Wilco, with a nostalgic nod to past legends like Neil Young and Lenoard Cohen. But the band is doing everything but resting on their laurels. They just finished a mammoth European tour where they played every night for three weeks. Then they took a whole 4 days off (slackers!) before commencing their tour yet again, this time through the lower 48 states and Canada. Needless to say, their live show is currently firing on all cylinders, as this hard-working band brings their brand of affecting Americana to the everyman.

Okkervil River plays Abbey Pub, Sunday, November 6th.


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