Okkervil River // Away
Its title might as well be a mission statement.
Away starts off strong. "Okkervil River R.I.P." – the opener – begins with a vocal cadence reminiscent of 2005's titular track, "Black Sheep Boy." It builds with majesty, lyrically creating music-about-music that would make Don McLean proud. Its title might as well be a mission statement. Frontman Will Sheff has forged ahead in the absence of any regular band members. Okkervil River lives through Will and Will alone these days, and it seems to be working out just fine. Lightly fading into the next track, "Call Yourself Renee," the album softens into lugubrious, symphonic indie folk. The orchestration, drawing upon studio musicians selected by Sheff, is lush and beautiful. Songs like "Comes Indiana Through The Smoke" draw on melodic motifs, ruminating on a theme. The tracks go at their own pace, averaging more than six minutes apiece. The demarcations fade in Away, an epic narrative full of dark humor and literary acumen. Intelligent writing has always been Okkervil River's non-so-secret weapon, and it's just enough to help the album stand, despite its lack of hooks or memorable choruses. – Nick Warren