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Okkervil River - I Am Very Far

When I first listened to Okkervil River, I didn't think all that much of them. I listened to The Stage Names several times, and while it certainly wasn't bad, and a few songs seemed pretty okay, it didn't really click for me. I couldn't get into it. I forgot about them, and then months later, I picked up the album again, and for whatever reason, something had changed. The Stage Names was great this time around. I saw them live, I bought their entire discography, and I loved it all. Some albums I had to warm to a little bit, but it all seemed like my kind of music even on first blush. The Stand Ins came out and it was fantastic. Okkervil River was my band. They were one of my favorite active rock acts. I loved them.

Just recently, Okkervil River put out their sixth proper widely released album, I Am Very Far, and I feel like I am back to the start of paragraph one. I listen to I Am Very Far and think to myself, "this isn't bad - some of it is even pretty good, I guess." But none of it really clicks. None of it really hits me like their other material does. The Valley, the album's opener, is pretty rocking, I imagine, with its aggressive, stomping rhythm and percussion, and its neat and highly selective use of instruments outside of the traditional rock realm. The Rise, the album's closer, seems to touch some strong emotional material while also holding to an odd time signature, the intentionally-slightly-off vocals subtly drawing attention to that fact. Everything in between those two, well, suffice to say that I can't really remember what any of them sound like.

Somehow I feel like I'm making a conscious effort to like I Am Very Far. I have listened to it again and again and again, hoping it will grow on me. I'm not even sure what, precisely, is different about this album, about Okkervil River now. Will Sheff still pens literary and emotional and insightful lyrics. The band still explores the seam between folk and indie rock. The instrumentation is still expansive, the style of the songs still varied. I think that, if anything, the band sounds thicker on this album. I've read that they double tracked most of the instruments. Perhaps that has something to do with it? Or maybe it's the fact that this is their first non-concept album in eight years? Has that affected their sound? Maye the recording process was different, or the production and mixing?

Okkervil River definitely sounds different - somehow - on I Am Very Far, and I am also definitely not as fond of it at this point as I am of any of their previous works. Try as I might, I just can't get into it. Some kind of connection is not being made. Maybe I need a few more listens, or maybe seeing them live in a week will spark some kind of crucial light. In the meantime, I guess I'm forced to admit that while it's okay, I just don't like the album that much.

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