Ten years ago Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See (henceforth referred to as DFILWEYS) was released. I figure if you were releasing things ten years in the past, it’s long enough to consider something a throwback. In fact, OR’s first release – the Bedroom EP – came out in 1998. So they are plenty old!
But make no mistake, the music Okkervil River is making today is still as good and fresh and intelligent as it was then. If anything, Sheff has gotten better at his craft. But the narrative abilities have been there from the very beginning.
There is a thing I do (and maybe you who are list people do as well) where I rate records that are local/regional on a different scale. I am from Houston and OR was from Austin but I figured close enough…
Somehow it seems mean and maybe you’re not proud of this but it’s true. Well DFILWEYS came out and I loved it and it was a top 5 (local-ish) record. I mean it was no Read Music/Speak Spanish, or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, or All Hail West Texas but it was very good nonetheless. Especially the opener “Red” and the best track on the record, in my mind, “Westfall.” DFILWEYS is worth it just for these two tracks alone.
And I listened to it a lot. But this post is not about DFILWEYS. It’s about the time the band that was a regional favorite residing in your backwater top 10 list broke through and made it to your legitimate top 10 list.
And that happened with Black Sheep Boy.
Black Sheep Boy is still one of my top 5 favorite records of all time (along with Blood On The Tracks and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea among others…). It is a concept record but not some sort of simple hero’s journey or anything like that. It’s dark and ambiguous and soaring and symphonic.
The lyrics and arrangements are flawless. The balance between slower songs and fast songs as well as the overall build of the record is hard to duplicate or describe – you just gotta listen to it!
For me what typifies this record and makes it a classic is the crescendo of “So Come Back I’m Waiting.”
I remember one night in particular where I layed on the floor drunk with my head next to the speaker and listened to that song over and over. Earlier this week I put it on and screamed along as I drove the dark highway back to Austin from Houston. It was just as cathartic as it always is. Check it out.
The slow build into the screaming finale – it’s beautiful and amazing and everything a song should be. If you don’t have this record, buy the rereleased, expanded version that includes Black Sheep Boy Appendix.
I thought of including here “Another Radio Song” from the Appendix which shares a lot with “So Come Back I’m Waiting” but I realized without the beauty of the former I am not sure I would appreciate the latter in the same way (as evidenced by not-as-fanatical enjoyment of “For The Captain” which is an early version of this song).
At any rate, lay on the floor and put your head next to the speaker and scream the lyrics. And after “So Come Back I’m Waiting” put on “Another Radio Song.” Preferably on vinyl so you can enjoy the warm hiss and pop of analog.
Dan Sharber wrote this even though he is pretty sure nothing is cool. He also likes to read books and maybe you want to check out his goodreads?