In the lead up to the release of Okkervil River’s Away, Will talked a lot about his new indifference towards rock n’ roll, so I approached the show on Wednesday night with just a little bit of trepidation. There were some hits, and some misses and then there were Brian’s photos.
This Wednesday night, Okkervil River is returning to town to play songs from their newest album, Away (and I assume so old classics as well). They’ll be playing at the Parish with Landlady and Corvette Summer. You can go the old fashioned way and get a pair of tickets right HERE…or, you can play along and WIN A FREE PAIR OF TICKETS!
All you need to do is leave a comment with your favorite song. If your favorite song is my favorite song, you’ll win the pair of tickets! Contest ends at 10 AM day of the show!
Walking into the park this past Friday, I should have seen the warning signs; there was a light drizzling rain as I made my way over to the Samsung Stage to catch Wild Nothing. It would rain off and on throughout the day, though the weather remained clear until the evening sets. We saw some jams, we did things to our livers.
Read on for my highlights of the day and some snap shots of our man, B.Gray.
A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of seeing these local darlings play some of their vast, now seven full-length albums deep, catalogue. While I was originally there to hear my favorites from prior releases, I was soon treated to several new songs off this release, The Silver Gymnasium, which got me excited to hear the rest of what Will Sheff and company of Okkervil River had to bring to the table this time around?
First to reach your ears is single, “It Was My Season,” which has this band doing what feels right for their little niche of folk inspired rock music coated in darkness. Some campy piano bursts onto the stage, joined together with Sheff’s unmistakable voice, and like the opening number in a musical you actually want to see, you go right along with Okkervil River as they take you down that path “all that time ago” into a tale of past love. The song picks up, to culminate into a full-blown chorus that should have you stomping along with them in a springier step then you may imagine. At the end of the four and a half minute track, the band leaves you on a nostalgic level, simmering down and letting you self reflect for a bit right before they launch into the next song.
While the first three songs on this record serve as a nice little trio of goodness to start of the record, you can notice a bit of a drop off after this point. There are still some good tunes awaiting you on the latter half of this record, they just don’t immediately grab you on your first listen through. Take “Walking Without Frankie—” second to last, the song starts with a rolling drum beat, and continuously builds upon itself, with Will Sheff twisting his storytelling lyrics around the music that keeps being added upon in the background. It gives the sensation of the tide rising; one moment you are taking note that the water is getting closer to you and the next it is upon you, with cymbals crashing in a frenzied finish.
And as simple as that, this band has added yet another number of songs, albeit not all of them, to add to your list of favorites. Some may argue that this album lacks the bleak bitterness of age and time that you would expect from a band that has been around for quite a long time now, but I think the youthful spin on The Silver Gymnasium is a turn in a good direction for Okkervil River; the darkness is still there, just waiting for you to find it.
|Tickets||$15 @ Door or $8 w/ CWK Ticket|
So as we create this post, and you read this, tickets are probably going pretty fast so you better get a move on. Just posted a few hours ago is a rare performance by local band Okkervil River at smaller venue Stubbs on the inside stage. To be blunt, I could honestly care less about seeing Cold War Kids play their new material, but a ticket to that show will get you into this one. Those not attending the CWK show, I recommend buying now and getting yourself in line super early.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/okkervil-river-lost-coastlines.mp3]
Download: Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines [MP3]
Sadly, it seems that Okkervil River is on the back-burner for the time being, with Will Sheff going out on his own as Lovestreams. He just announced that he’s going to be releasing a new solo effort under the moniker at an as yet to be determined date. He’s offered the first listen up to the misses, which noticeably has his trademark guitar hiding, being traded in for electronic soundscapes. Luckily, the literary writing approach is still ever-present, which is one of Will’s most endearing qualities. We’ll keep you posted on more news as it comes our way, but for now, tell us what you think of Will’s new jam![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/shock-corridor.mp3]
Download:Lovestreams – Shock Corridor [MP3]
Three weeks ago we brought you a country-ish number from Juston Stens, the former member of Dr. Dog, but this new track is something quite different. There’s an almost jagged element, giving a little spring to your step, but through it all, you can still see the folk-ish routes of Stens and his past. My ears hear a little bit of an homage to Okkervil River, but perhaps that’s just wishful thinking. Regardless, if he’s writing songs like this, it doesn’t seem like he made a bad move in stepping out to go solo. His album Trash or Treasure can be found in stores now, and if you’re in Austin, you can catch him playing several sets as part of the SXSW festivities.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/01-1.-When-Fire-Burns-Out.mp3]
Download:Juston Stens – When Fire Burns Out [MP3]
Oh man, is 2011 over already? It is indeed, which means End of Year list time! Of course, that means it’s time for you to tell us where we went wrong, but on this list, we’re thinking we got it pretty right on. You’ll notice we expanded our list to a Top 15 of Texas Artists, as we thought our state did a great job, musically (not politically) speaking this year. I’ll admit, it might be a little Austin-centric, but we’re based in the town, so get the Austin word a lot faster. Apologies to Houston and San Antonio, as your scenes weren’t represented, but it’s nothing personal. Feel free to leave us a comment to yell at us or tell us we were right on. But, that being said, remember this is just the OPINION of a few dudes keeping it real in Austin.
There is a lot to go through; here is but a smattering. Day One features Cloud Nothings, people getting tattoed, The Gosling, dust, YACHT, The Thermals, The Oh Sees, more dust, Okkervill River, Four Tet, bandanas (wearing one right now) and a couple filler shots from the house.
Head past the break for a couple of stories, the pics and a link to even more pics…
Anytime you get an Okkervil River album, you know that you’re going to be in for a quality listen. Carefully orchestrated songs are wrapped in dense lyrics, though we’ve grown accustomed to some sort of thematic representation on each album–not the case here, though that’s irrelevant in the long run. You can see sort of a re-imagining of the band’s sound, as I Am Very Far goes much further than the territory previously danced around on earlier works.
You open the record with a bit of noise teetering, but it’s the hard-hitting echo of the snare that brings in the song, just as Will Sheff begins his discourse. One of the elements that will immediately stick out is how far the production and orchestration has come since the early days–just take a listen to the string arrangements and piano pieces added for textural purposes. As you begin to take your journey with I Am Very Far, you get what seems like a much more playful Sheff, in so far as his vocals hit varying ranges. He opens with a bit of an off-key croon, which provides a bit of swing to it all, though the greatest quality of the past that seems to return is the raw edge of his vocal, scratching at your ears; this has been a quality he seems to have put to rest with recent releases like The Stand-Ins and The Stage Names.
What’s surprising this go round is how comfortable Okkervil River seem on the gentler tracks throughout this collection. In the past, they occasionally came across as afterthoughts, or pieces that fit the greater story, but stripping thematic story lines away apparently has allowed for songs like “Lay of the Last Survivor” to take the spotlight. Here you have a completed song, something where the finer details fill out the empty space, giving more depth rather than just rely on Sheff’s unique voice. “We Need a Myth” similarly gives the band room to elaborate on the sound of the unit as a whole. Piano topping strummed guitar with echoed vocals really allows for the song to make its mark, moving the band’s sound further than many have come to expect.
And by this point you’re half way through with your listening experience, and it can only get better, remarkably. “Your Past Life as a Blast” may not sound entirely like Okkervil River, but that’s precisely what allows for this record to really make a statement as to where the band stands currently. Even the single from I Am Very Far, “Wake and Be Fine,” has a ferocity to it that we haven’t seen a whole lot from the group, with Sheff’s vocals coming off a lot more forceful, while the rest of the group keeps things balanced. Be sure you don’t skip the closing moments of “The Rise,” perhaps one of the shining moments in all of Sheff’s writing career. It all stands to say that this is a band that we thought we knew well, and we thought we knew just what to expect. But, a few tweaks to the system have created a record that is very far from where the band seemed to have been, giving us all an entirely new Okkervil River to enjoy over and over again, down the river of golden dreams.