Monday, October 26, 2009

Okkervil River - Down the River of Golden Dreams

Okkervil River – Down the River of Golden Dreams
Jagjaguar, 2003
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $12

Another step towards Okkervil River finding their sound. The second album improves on the first by dropping the mandolin and focusing on being a literary indie-rock band. Basically. “The War Criminal Rises to Speak” is not only one of the best songs on this record, but it's the next step in Sheff's songwriting process. It correlates with the narrative structure of “Westfall,” this time focusing on a newspaper article about a lieutenant in some foreign army that killed a village of kids. Sheff then ponders this and finds a way to humanize the villain. Not in a way that like, shines a positive light on him, but looking at him as a human being, etc. Black Sheep Boy is haunted by killers, and The Stage Names and The Stand Ins do nothing but focus on characters. Maybe that's what I mean: Will Sheff is amazing at writing songs about characters, that's his thing, and he does it better than anyone writing songs right now. As for the record as a whole, it has better songs, the band has started to figure itself out, and it's an overall more satisfying listen. “It Ends With a Fall,” “The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion,” “Dead Faces,” “Maine Island Lovers” (which is pretty slow but lyrically is pretty excellent) and “Seas Too Far to Reach.” Oops, spoke too soon. The mandolin shows up again on the forgettable “Yellow.” But overall, this one is a winner. Not an amazing album, but it's got some amazing songs.

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