Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
So Come Back, I Am Waiting
This started out as a Shearwater post, and then after I got Black Sheep Boy, grew into an Okkervil River post as well, and then after poking around Jound.com a bit, it’s just a big ol Will Robinson Sheff respect post.
I think I sampled some Okkervil many moons ago from Said The Gramophone and quite frankly, wasn’t impressed. From what I recall, the fidelity of the recording made Sparklehorse sound like Pink Floyd and the singer’s voice was off-key and raw enough to cause me actual discomfort. I mentally filed it under “thanks but no thanks” and put them out of my mind. Fast forward to May 11, 2005 and seeing Shearwater open for The Mountain Goats. Even if John Darnielle and company hadn’t put on a fantastic show (they did), I would have been quite satisfied – Shearwater really impressed live and on disc (I bought a copy of Shearwater at the show). I was aware of a connection between Shearwater and Okkervil River and since Okkervil’s latest Black Sheep Boy had been getting such good reviews, I ordered me up a copy of that, mostly unheard. And damn if it’s not excellent as well.
With all respect the the members of Okkervil and Shearwater who aren’t Will Sheff, I find the two acts to be somewhat interchangable (based on the one album of each I own) Update: And incorrectly so, apparently. Please refer to Kathryn’s comments below and, um, ignore my shoddy critical analysis. If you were to do a random play of both albums together, it’d still sound cohesive to me – both draw from Americana gothic/folk song traditions but neither are traditional sounding by any means. Sheff’s voice in both is rich, resonant and vulnerable, and perfectly suited to expressing his intricate and evocative lyricism. I’m having trouble figuring out why I couldn’t get into this a couple years ago – it seems like a no-brainer now. Ah well, better late than never. If I have to draw distinctions between the two projects, I’d say Shearwater is a little more delicate and late-night sounding, Okkervil more likely to get up and shout, but both tread a similar musical landscape. I couldn’t imagine liking one but not the other.
Here’s some audio (and video) – the mp3 for “A Makeover” is only 56kbps, but is far and away my favourite track off of Winged Life so I posted it anyway –
Sheff’s Jonathan Meiburg’s Sheff’s voice suits the vocal melody so perfectly, it makes my head explode with joy. And representing Okkervil is “For Real”, complete with suitably creepy animated video and making-of feature. The first time I played Black Sheep Boy on my stereo, the big guitar stabs leading into the pre-chorus literally made me jump out of my seat. Played loud through a decent stereo, that will get your attention. There’s scads more media available at the respective band websites. And for reading, Lazy-I has an interview with Sheff in the Okkervil context.
MP3: Okkervil River – “For Real”
MOV: Okkervil River – “For Real”
MOV: Okkervil River – The recording of “For Real”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Black”
MP3: Shearwater – “A Makeover”
MP3: Shearwater – “The World In 1984”
Between you and me, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. So why am I finally getting around to finishing it up and publishing it? Okkervil River will be in Toronto at Lee’s Palace on November 7. Tickets $10 in advance. Excited about this one, obvs. It’s all about the topicality, man.
So, Liz Phair, I see you’ll be in town at the Phoenix on October 23. Oh, Liz. What happened? We used to be friends. But the last time we got together at the Guvernment, well that was just awkward. For both of us. I think it was your headset mic, to be honest. What’s up with that?
np – Bob Dylan / Biograph