I Am Very Fine

I Am Very Far sounds less like the title of Okkervil River’s new album than it does an acknowledgement by singer-songwriter Will Sheff about how much he’s grown. And he has come very far indeed.  On the album Sheff dares the band and listeners to join him. It’s as if he’s saying, “Everything’s so much better out here. Trust me. Come, take a look.” Make no mistake, this is Will Sheff’s album.

Long time fans may find I Am Very Far less approachable than some of the band’s other offerings like The Stand Ins, but that doesn’t mean it’s not ultimately rewarding. It’s contagious. It feels like Sheff has something he needs to get off his chest and he wants to share it so badly he doesn’t worry about his performance. For much of the album he sounds like he’s too far off the mic.

I Am Very Far is more violent than the band’s previous work. To be sure, Austin’s finest have never shied away from carnage (see: For Real), but this album is chock full of it.

The drumbeat for blood sounds on the opening track, “The Valley:”

Watch the sun switching in the sky off and on
Where a friend stands bleeding on a late summer lawn.
Slicked back bloody black, gunshot to the head.
He’s fallen in the valley of the rock n’ roll dead.

The brutality continues on the syncopated “Piratess:”

Oh murderess in the wilderness,  with your victims all around you.
Their combined love forms a pool your knife’s reflected in.

All this violence doesn’t go unrecognized. In the stand out track, “Lay of the Last Survivor,” Sheff mourns the toll it takes:

What a way down.
What a ride.
What a slide.
Spin around.
What a life to have known.”

Towards the end of the long player we’re reminded that everything is going to be okay. Was it merely a dream? On the catchy “Wake and Be Fine” Sheff begs, “Wake and be fine. You’ve still got time to wake and be fine.”

The instrumentation is darker and more experimental than what most of us are used to hearing from Okkervil River. But after a few spins I’m convinced this album hasn’t gone too far.

Okkervil River – Wake and Be Fine

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