We’ve been listening to Okkervil River since 2007, when The Stage Names came out.
Last night at Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon we go to see the band perform in a beautiful outdoor setting. AgesandAges opened the bill, followed by Okkervil River and The Decemberists.
Okkervil River’s founding members became friends at Kimball Union Academy, a prep school in Meriden, New Hampshire, and after parting ways for college moved to Austin, Texas to live together and start a band.
The band takes its name from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya, which is another clue as to their intelligence and where they’re coming from.
Okkervil River’s new album, I Am Very Far, was released on May 10, 2011. This is how NPR describes the record:
It’s a bold departure from how the group has operated so far. Sheff’s vocals are creaky, but his lyrics are dazzling; his arrangements are sloppy, but his hooks are indelible. The band’s trademark has always been the union of those elements into a beautiful mess. I Am Very Far reverses that formula: The storytelling is knotty, cryptic and David Lynch-like in its ominous weirdness, while the music is so severe and precise as to be terrifying at times.
In other words, it’s not a pop album. Rather, it’s a unique work from a band that finds a way to sound unlike every other band playing today — a fact for which they must be praised.
Of course, last night’s headliner, The Decemberists, are also totally unique. Darby and I call their style, “Sea Shanty music.”
Interestingly, this strange form has caught on, making The Decemberists a mainstream act, at least where record sales, touring schedules, radio airplay and critical acclaim are concerned. In fact, there was evidence of this last light, as only two in ten fans noticeably belonged to the hipster tribe.