Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy
This album had been on my ‘to get’ list for a long while, but never stumped up the money to bring it in on import. It was originally released in 2005, but in the UK in 2006 (which is why it’s valid here) but I actually bought it in Auckland a few months ago.
Okkervil River play songs that have been characterised as emo, rock, indie and country (the section where I found this) because the songs aren’t afraid to rock, Will Sheff’s vocals are definitely charged with emotion, yet there’s a side to the songs that is tender and intelligent.
The album itself is a concept of sorts, beginning with a cover of Tim Hardin’s, Black Sheep Boy, with a view to take it’s namesake through a series of songs later on in the album. Immediately after comes the quiet strum of For Real, a few hushed lines are given before a guitar stab comes out of nowhere, jolting you to attention and really kicking the song and album into gear. It’s actually quite surprising that Okkervil River have decided to give the two strongest songs off the album, the other being Black, away for free, but even more satisfying when the likes of The Latest Toughs and So Come Back, I Am Waiting prove that they haven’t given away all their album’s assets.
The quieter and more subtle songs took longer to take hold, but have since grown with repeated listens, recognising the horns prevalent in A King And A Queen and the following A Stone that lift the previously dour tone whilst hearing Song of Our So-Called Friend work its wonder with a jaunty strum and tinkling keyboards and Get Big release with a gorgeous slide guitar solo.