Album Reviews

Album review: Okkervil River – I Am Very Far (Jagjaguwar)

By | Published on Friday 6 May 2011

Okkervil River

‘I Am Very Far’ could be viewed as the product of one man’s dedicated isolation, and it certainly appears that way when played in its entirety: an explosion of haunted crazed cacophony, wrought emotion and abundant instrumentation, it is anything but a record devoid of personality. The sixth from Austin-based alt-folk mavericks Okkervil River, it was indeed written by frontman Will Sheff during long periods of time spent alone in his original home of New Hampshire, a leafy, north-eastern state bordering Canada where one can certainly imagine many a haunted house.

Sheff shares the same sort of warbling vocals boasted by the likes of Win Butler, Ryan Gosling and Nick Urata, a voice that can carry a tune without the slightest hope of making it sound dead or completely devoid of emotion. ‘We Need A Myth’, with its echoing strings and haunting piano, and the dreamy ‘Piratess’ are peaks in the album’s vast landscape, whereas the sad ‘The Rise’ brings it down to more mellow levels, steeped deep in nostalgia, with a piano-tinkling intro you can imagine playing over the black and white scenes of a silent movie.

Don’t let the explosions of mild insanity fool you; they sound terrific, yes, but they have been controlled down to the last breath. While well over ten musicians were gathered to record the magnificently epic ‘Rider’ and bluesy, morose ‘Wake And Be Fine’ live in one room, Sheff, we’ve been told, spent many an ungodly hour mixing, rewriting and ensuring that every last second of the album was perfect. The result is not a glossed-over version of the madness he sought to represent – what he has done is taken what was there organically, and multiplied it tenfold to create a world for us to be a part of rather than to view from the outside. TW

Physical release: 9 May

Listen to ‘I Am Very Far’ here: