A Creature All Its Own
J. Smith | Wasilla, AK | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okkervil River is one of those rare bands that came on the scene like a crippled child in a street race, tons of ambition and heart in a limping fragile frame. With each reappearance their stamina shines through however, as every album they release is an exponential improvement over the last. With Black Sheep Boy they have, not only come to full maturity as a band, but have grown into a powerful creature of immense musical talent aswell. They are without a doubt miles ahead of their competition. On par with bands such as The National, Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists, as far as talent and personal voice, if not also in style (Think: The child of The National and The Decemberists trapped inside of a very troubling dream).
The Album does not stick to a single genre, sometimes it's alt-county, sometimes it's straight up rock, but it's always musically inspired and rewarding to listen to. But the part that makes this an excellent Album, rather than a collection of songs, is the epic scope of the story it contains.
The songs collect the thoughts and experiences of a true struggle with evil. The physical turmoil of a rotten relationship, the very real vices and temptations of humanity, the sickly excitement and victories that evil enjoys, all of these things are brought together to form the black sheep boy, the devil inside us all. The story is extremely personal, and Okkervil River's great strength is the injection of emotion into every line, and every note of the songs. But even for an album completely covered with the struggle with evil, it never gets bogged down in the darkness, and is more often triumphant in it's victories over the enemy. I'm always overjoyed with the pitiful pleas of evil desires as the hero turns his back on the empty promises and lies and moves on to a better life.
Add to all of this, the fact that it now comes packaged with The Black Sheep Boy's Appendix, for almost no extra cost, and you have a definitive product indeed. The Appendix is an EP that was released several months after Black Sheep Boy. However, it is seriously one of the best mini-albums I've ever heard. From start to finish the songs segue like a masterpiece stage act. Floating from song to song, remembering themes and images from itself and Black Sheep Boy propper, it finalizes the story and musical arc of Black Sheep Boy. It contains several songs that are even more beautiful and grander than the songs on the album itself. Check out 'Another Radio Song' to find the best song Okkervil River has recorded to date, in my opinion.
This is a must have for any fan of adventurous albums with emotion, talent, and character. I have listened to it at least once a week for the past year and a half. Give it a try."