Okkervil River – I Am Very Far (Jagjaguwar)

May 11, 2011 by  

It’s been just over six years since the release of Okkervil River’s momentous concept album ‘Black Sheep Boy’, their third album, and sophomore effort on the Jagjaguwar label.

The Texan darlings were given a huge boost by having the song ‘Black’ picked up by Mark Hoppus’ ‘Hi My Name is Mark’ podcast, a project started in between finishing with blink-182 and forming +44, and despite the obvious difference in musical styles that the demographic of this podcast’s audience would likely produce, Hoppus had shown a keen ear for unearthing indie gems and Okkervil River had a glint of exposure from a remarkable and unexpected source. Though this introduction helped, it is by a well-crafted live presence, attention to recording solid albums and also sterling performances throughout the years at SXSW – the band’s hometown festival – that Okkervil River has earned the right to be heard on a wider scale.

Fast forward to today, and we have ‘I Am Very Far’, the band’s sixth studio album and first since 2008. Now, there’s nothing here as challenging as ‘Black Sheep Boy’ or ambitious as ‘The Stand Ins’, but this sounds like an album from a band who finally feel like they have served their time on fringes. They have undoubtedly put the hard yards in, so should they start to reap the benefits?

The answer to that question is most definitely, yes.

It’s been a long time in the making, but this could be the album that finally manages to push Okkervil River from the depths of indie rock semi-cult status. There is enough density and mysteriousness to keep them honest and true to the indie sub genres which have housed them over the years, but the songs are more engaging and have a little more kick. The opening track ‘The Valley’ is a great opener and talks of “rock ‘n’ roll”, and along with ‘Piratess’, sets the tone for a truly outstanding album to come.

They’ve broken free from the shackles of the folky, alt.country fundamentals they’ve kept close through the years without banishing them away, instead simply adding texture and vigour to their sound.

But if you’re going to talk about could’s and should’s, then here is the real deal. Should this be Okkervil River’s time? Yes, it should. It’s been a long time coming and there aren’t many more deserving of a break, but should it be their time? The answer once again is in the affirmative, and ‘I Am Very Far’ actually isn’t too far from being the faultless indie classic of 2011. It will certainly be hard to better.

[rating:4.5]


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