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

Recommended Show

Okkervil River play sprawling songs of love lost.

September 17, 2007
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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, The Stage Names, will again be on many Top 10 Lists of 2007 (following the logic that pretty much all of their past records seem to have been on a top ten year-end list). Their songs of longing 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 continue to hit the road with full-force. And due to their seemingly constant touring, Okkervil River's live show is currently firing on all cylinders. This hard-working band brings their brand of affecting Americana to the everyman.

Opening is the excellent Seattle singer/songwriter, Damien Jurado. We once described him as a more-depressed Pedro the Lion. We now know that's not true. David Bazan is just as depressed as Jurado these days.

Okkervil River (and Damien Jurado) play Webster Hall, on Friday, September 28th.

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