Words From The Midwest XXXIII

Good evening, all drunken mishaps; all talkin’ trash; all divine intervention; all maybe I’ve said that before. Welcome to another edition of Words From The Midwest.

This will be a two part post because my mind is scattered and I want this to be two very different things.

Firstly, on the topic of my over-productivity so far this year:

It’s very nearly a problem and I have saturated my internets with, like, six releases and three books, so I’m gonna take a little break to work on my second novel, which will be a labour of love, I’m sure, and is going to be entitled, “Oh, Yes! or The Intrepid Dreamer.”

There. End of self-serving bullshit.

What I really want to write about – what I’ve been threatening to really delve into for a while now – is the best band in the world today; one of the best bands of our generation; an artist and group so completely raw and perfect that I get angry when other people don’t like them as much as I do. I understand, I suppose. The vocals are Morisseyesque, in a way, so if you don’t like that kind of thing, you’re just not gonna give the band a chance. But if you do, man, you will find songs that are wonderfully unique, positively exquisite, and drop dead perfect Rock and Roll. I mean, the lyrics in and of themselves are so good that they stand on their own – more often than not – as beautiful poetry. But with wordplay alone, Okkervil River wouldn’t be Okkervil River. They’d just be Will Sheff. And, honestly, with such a literate mind (he often writes essays, film reviews, and such, which you can find on his website) and a goddamn brilliant nack for intricate melodies built around classic chord progressions, if he was a solo act, I think he’d probably still be my favorite songwriter. But what makes Okkervil River truly special is the raw power and skill with which they arrange each song Sheff brings forth. Their drummer is like the Animal, their lead guitar player is a woman and she crafts lovely and shredable guitar parts…but maybe the thing about them as a band I love so much is that they utilize not one, but two, acoustic guitars. Yes, it is acoustic guitar driven, Indie-Whatever with a Punk hew. It doesn’t hurt – if you really give them a chance, you’ll realize – that Will Sheff’s vocals outshine most of his contemporaries, and the way he flat out screams at the right time will give you chills.

I first heard Okkervil River when I was 19 years old, living in Asheville, North Carolina, and dying for new inspiration, wanting and hoping to become a halfway decent songwriter in a time in my life when I flat out needed to write music. As time has gone by, and I have gobbled up everything the band has offered the world, I maintain that they are the best band in the world and they are, with Will Sheff in particular, the reason I became the songwriter I am. The first good song I wrote, I wrote to the tune of Plus Ones. My song is called Visions So Sweet and it’s damn near the tune and tone of Plus Ones, and I don’t even care. As I have developed as a songwriter, it’s hopefully true that I have gotten away from straight-up ripping them off. But as a songwriter – hell, as a music lover – I still look to Okkervil River for inspiration. They are something special. But now I’m getting redundant.

So I’ll finish this post the way I’ve finished a few of these…go listen to them. Listen to Okkervil River. It won’t be the last time I say that. And this probablly won’t even be the last time I write about them. I mean, they play a part in two of the books I’ve written. They’re spinning right now (Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See). And I’m itching for a new release. Because I’ve played out the grooves of what they’ve done so far.

They’ve released some masterpieces, man. Seriously. And they’re not – I hope – even close to being done.

Until next time.



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