Okkervil River emerged from a musical moment and scene of the early aughts — the hothouse of first generation of bands on the Secretly Canadian label group, amidst a larger cadre of singer-songwriter-focused bands that were themselves secretly (or not so secretly) Christian — that was so musically and ideologically stifling that it’s a miracle they survived at all. All along, the lyrics and vocal performances of Will Sheff — and Okkervil River always was Sheff at its core, though some may preserve love for the illusion of its one-time-band-ness — scraped and clawed their way towards the transgressive, longing to puncture what I hope you’ll forgive me for calling the corduroy-ness of their social circumstance.
Eventually, though, something was going to have to give, and in this way, it was not totally surprising that the band-y illusion of Okkervil River had to die so that Okkervil River could live. Few lyricists in recent memory have had a stronger sense of narrative and scene-setting, and in the end, this is what won out. On last year’s Away, a mostly acoustic LP anchored by the epic “Okkervil River RIP,” a tune that reads as well as it plays, you’ll notice a far lighter musical touch than the rumble of early beloved Okkervil records. But dear God, it still punches a hole in you just as much, if not more, than the old stuff does. On this acoustic tour, where Sheff and a few accomplices will play a survey of O.R. tunes in this new, lighter style, they’ll see how the approach works out with the rest of the Okkervil canon. Something tells me it’ll all hold up pretty well.
With Jesse Hale Moore. Tickets here.