By Lauren Sloss | May 13th, 2011
Okkervil River have long proven their ability to produce musically engaging, undeniably catchy tunes. I Am Very Far, their newest album, carries on this tradition — much of the album has deeply excellent examples of the swelling, joyous-but-raging sound that dominated the band’s 2008 release The Stand Ins.
The remainder of I Am Very Far is interesting. Delving into darker territory, lyrics become enigmatic and instrumentals become almost experimental in sound. Tracks like “Show Yourself” and “The Rise,” the album’s closer, are dominated by an unfamiliar wall of sound, a drastic departure from the raucous guitar-strumming piano-pounding melee-style musicianship the band does so well.
The change isn’t necessarily a negative, however. Admittedly, I prefer Okkervil River’s sunnier tunes — “We Need A Myth” is a masterful composition of epic, orchestral sound while “The Rider” is ready made for hand-clapping and concert dancing. But the album’s darker side adds a fascinating dimension to the band’s sound. Hailing from Austin doesn’t necessarily lead to an assumption of southern sound — indie is the more obvious association. I Am Very Far explores another facet of southern influence on Okkervil River: the gothic.
This is harkened with the opening track. “The Valley” announces its intentions over the steady tattoo of a marching band beat: “A slick back bloody black gunshot to the head, he has fallen in the valley of the rock ‘n’ roll dead.”
This album, worth it for the sunnier songs alone, becomes an interesting exercise in the power of contrasts. The whole is not only more than the sum of its parts: its defined by their sharp variations.