Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
This is another super important record for the year of 2008. Like Dear You and The Meadowlands, this record was used to sum up my life to the moment, most importantly the misery. Will Sheff based the album around a Tim Hardin song of the same name, and creates a character out of the black sheep boy. I never really pieced together the whole story, just the sad parts. However, this is pretty much a perfecta album. Every song works and on top of that, every song is excellent. It's completely cohesive and represents another step forward for Okkervil River. I think this is where they really plateau. It's peppered with a couple of jaunty, upbeat rockers (“Black,” “The Latest Toughs,” the title track) which are just enough to balance the slow sad songs. These, along with the high points of “For Real” and “So Come Back, I am Waiting” are where the ever bottled up Sheff lets loose. He has great restraint over his voice on the slower songs but when he finally gets to let loose, it's something of an emotional triumph. If you can call that kind of pain and misery a triumph. I remember seeing Okkervil River at the Jackpot when they were touring in support of this record and noticed Sheff walking around the venue on his cell phone for a good thirty minutes before they were to go on. When he got up on stage he announced that the woman he loved had just told him she never wanted to see him again and proceeded to bleed on stage. Well, pretty much. It was an amazing show, the best time I've ever seen them. Actually, that's a lie. Second best. The best was at SXSW 2008 with them playing to 500-1000 people at Stubbs, their last show with guitarist Brian Cassidy. That one was intense. But anyway, I've listened to this record a bunch of times, more than most records in my collection. I'd put side-two on before bed a lot, waiting for the three songs at the very end of the record that make up one of the saddest collections of songs I've ever heard. “Song of our So-Called Friend” laments, “So Come Back, I am Waiting” spills everything on the floor and pleads for someone to come back home, “A Glow” is a conclusion finally reached after years of pain. Etc. It's a record full of pain, and basically it's perfect if you're feeling miserable.