Highlights: Lay Of The Last Survivor, White Shadow Waltz, Your Past Life As A Blast, Wake And Be Fine
Interestingly, every time I hear a new Okkervil River album, I can’t get rid of a feeling that they could do better. Having heard some of their earlier records, I know they could – they just lack consistency, the songwriting chops to fill an album with songs as affecting and tuneful as, say, “John Allyn Smith Sails”. So they end up patchy. In places, boring; in places, overdramatic.
I Am Very Far is Okkervil River’s usual indie drama. Stuffy production, anguished melodies, and Will Shelf’s equally anguished, emotionally charged vocals. When it works – it’s extremely effective, intense, and might even sound heartbreaking (without giving you the vaguest idea why). Songs like “White Shadow Waltz” or “Wake And Be Fine” are both lovely and unforgettable. The boring bits include a couple of obscure, faceless tracks like “Show Yourself” or “Piratess” that go for atmosphere and general loveliness rather than some more earthly melodic delights. The majority of the record, though, sounds a great deal better than that cheap cover would suggest.
But overall I Am Very Far is a good record. Not exceptionally good – just worthy, ‘no new fans needed’ good. Makes you believe that their masterpiece is still very much a possibility. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this for a day or two.