She'll Grow Back: Okkervil River -- A Brief Introduction

Friday, April 18, 2008

Okkervil River -- A Brief Introduction

This poster here is not for the show I saw last night, but it's pretty, and it represents a few things about the band -- their darkness and their mystery and their roughness.

I was all psyched to come here today and write an impassioned love note to Okkervil River for the show they put on, but I don't have to. It's already been done by others.

So let me say a few personal things instead. I'm a sucker for bands that have a trumpet in them. If you're a rock band, and you include a trumpet, I'll listen to any album you put out at least twice. Okkervil River has a trumpet, and it plays the trumpet figures that haunt my mind whenever I hear a sad song, any sad song at all, on the radio.

Will Sheff's vocals consistently affect me emotionally, no matter the lyrical content of the song. (Scroll down or click to listen to what he does, even with a silly song like "Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear.")

So here are my three favorite songs that the band played last night. "Plus Ones" is a good summation of everything Okkervil River can do, lyrically and musically. "John Allyn Smith Sails" turns into a surprise cover, which seems inevitable as soon as you hear the first strains. And "Westfall" is incredible -- a driving rock song that feels like the band's audition for the next volume of Murder Ballads. (The song was inspired by a real-life murder, kind of, and the way that Will Sheff's coworkers kept trying to see the evil in the banal murderer.)

(Okkervil River opened for The New Pornographers. Direct your browser this way tomorrow for a post on that half of the show.)

Buy CDs from the record label -- The Stage Names, source of "Plus Ones" and "John Allyn Smith."
Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See, source of "Westfall."

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