on January 9, 2003
I just can't get over this CD. I downloaded "Lady Liberty" and "Kansas City" a while before I went out and bought it, and I thought they were pretty wonderful, but the entire album completely floored me. I haven't been able to stop listening to it since I got it. The beautiful, arresting "Westfall" is maybe my favorite track, but every song has its own distinct merits. Okkervil River's songs are wistful, poetic, and intelligent, and will hit you right in the heart.
on July 25, 2002
A music reviewer I am not, but I absolutely feel compelled to recommend this CD. If you like Neutral Milk Hotel, the Microphones, Bright Eyes, Will Oldham, and Tom Waits, to name some popular examples, you'll probably find a dominant position on your CD rack for Don't Fall in Love.... The music is immediately striking, emotional, and full of lyrics and stories that you'll want to think about, re-read in the liner notes, and hear again and again.
on February 24, 2003
This album loses none of the immediacy or intimacy of their previous CD, "Stars Too Small to Use," but expands on it with greater textural exploration, adding horns, violins, pedal steel, banjo and more to the bare acoustic arrangements of their earlier songs. Even more fleshed out instrumentally as these songs are, they are just as raw as those on OR's previous outing, something they accomplish through fantastic songcraft and bared-soul performances. Combining the rustic tones of Will Oldham (Palace, Bonnie Prince Billy) with the angst of Bright Eyes, this album should appeal to anybody who loves powerful songs performed with abandon. If you like this album, I also highly recommend checking out The Kamikaze Hearts, "Seven More Wonders of the World," if you can find it.
on March 3, 2005
Those of us unfortunate enough to be stricken with an inability to see are also those of us fortunate enough to discover the often overlooked power of our auditory senses. Why do we notice sounds at night that go completely overlooked during the day, and get spooked by those normal sounds (walls and tables creaking, pipes rustling) that we couldn't notice less in the sunshine? Have you ever watched a scary movie with the sound off, or noticed your car stereo getting louder as the day grows dimmer? As sight, the most relied upon of all senses, goes, our ears seem to take up the cause to make us aware of our surroundings. More often than not, it is sound and not sight that arouses the most gripping emotional response in our brains.
That said, Okkervil River do a damn good job of conveying emotion, mostly depression and an unforeseen, conflicting, and tortured relationship with vocalist Will Sheff's mother that hints toward some type of unresolved, deeply rooted oedipal conflict. Where Bright Eye's Conor Oberst tends to obnoxiously mope and moan on the mike, Sheff seems to be on the verge of suicide, displaying a cool yet agonizing connection to his tales of adolescent murder and adult heartbreak. Mostly muted and collected, he occasionally breaks into an all-out shout that hints at Oberst-like emotion, yet manages to maintain a restraint that Oberst is incapable of showing.
Playing alt-country like the best Neil Young or Jackson Browne song, the twangy banjos, harmonica, and slide guitar fill in the cracks, acting as bridges between verses or interludes between lyrics, but never taking over. The real star here is Sheff, who stands out most on the classic "Westfall," a disturbingly collected tale about a high schooler, who, along with his best friend, murders a fellow student from a neighboring Christian school. "When I killed her/ it was so easy/ that I wanted to kill her again," he states in a tempered melody, which, when combined with his cool detachment from the narrative, is apt to send shivers into your skull. The crowds and cameras gather round, with all "looking for evil/thinking' they can trace it," however, Sheff reminds the crowd gathering that "evil don't look like anything."
With at least three songs directly referencing "mother," Sheff oddly centers this maternal figure at the center of many songs, displaying emotion from anger at her actions to a blatant want of attention-it is quite apparent that either Sheff can sell his songs like no other, or he's been through some pretty messed up times. This album stands to show that beauty comes from the strangest places.
on June 5, 2003
Just an incredible album. I happened by this cuz I read a good review I think in Rolling stone and the album just floored me. its not often with a song just MOVES you, and this album has many songs that move you. Red, Westfal, Okkervil River are such beautiful, emotional pieces. Puts your faith back in music.
on December 9, 2002
This excellent album seemed to come out of left field earlier this year and is one of 2002's biggest surprises - full of literate, passionate songwriting, lush instrumentation, and riveting performances. Okkervil River has been compared to Neutral Milk Hotel and Wilco - I'd go back slightly further and invoke the names of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. In a pop world so obsessed with surface, it's great to hear people really giving their all. Highly recommended.
on December 10, 2002
This album is terrific. Okkervil River is so much more than an indie folk rock band. The range is wide - everything from the delightfully evil and delightfully rockin' murder ballad Westfall to the slow, warm reminiscences of Listening to Otis Redding....The instrumentation is more diverse than the first album, creating a fuller sound and causing comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel. Every song has its own personality and none disappoint. Altogether a good buy.
on December 3, 2005
Definately their best. Their new albums lost what sacred flourishes kept them from sounding like another Conor Oberst type band. It has a southern/country grit on alot of songs, complete with mandolins, banjos, quick snare drum patterns, and American Gothic lyrics.
When I initially purchased all of Okkervil's three LPs, I was leaning towards Black Sheep as the keeper, but while this album is a slow and meandering river, it has deeper depths and murkier meanings than its successors.
This ended up the only Okkervil album kept
on June 21, 2002
I bought this after hearing "Listening to Otis Redding..." -- I don't usually get CDs for just one song, but dear lord I'm so glad I did in this case! This is one of the best albums I've ever heard -- all 9 songs are unbelievably stirring and interesting and smart. The songs are so perfect that it's hard to believe someone wrote them and that they didn't just materialize complete and shiny and beautiful out of thin air. I can't stop listening to it. AAAA!!! SO GOOOOD!!!!
on January 11, 2003
I bought this CD from the original producer and it came with a personally written note thanking me for supporting them. These guys are incredible. This CD has some unbelievably beautiful melodies, many instruments and sounds, different vocalists on some tracks ( I enjoy a little variety there), and very thoughtful and memorable lyrics. I bought it when I heard "Kansas City" on a rainy day, but I love the whole CD. Not a party CD, but great for just listening and relaxing or while doing the calming ritual of folding laundry, or reminiscing about an old flame. I'd recommend it, especially to sentimentalist music addicts. If you like Counting Crows, Otis Redding, or heck, Patsy Cline, you oughtta really like at least a good deal of what Okkervil River is.