Tag Archives: Okkervil River: I Am Very Far

Sounds of 2011 #5: Sing High Gospel

Founding member of instrumental innovators, Godspeed You! Black Emperor & Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, Efrim Manuel Menuck released his debut solo album, Plays High Gospel, this year and while it may not have made a splash on the charts, it has remained on high rotation in my waters since picking up a copy at Amoeba Records in San Francisco. Efrim’s voice is an incredible instrument, a blast of anguish from the depths of the human well. His lyrics, explore the loneliness of the road, urban and physical decay and recently, fatherhood. For me, Heavy Calls & Hospitals Blues is the track of the year… in the blues tradition, listening to it fills the chest with the sweetest ache.

And for those looking for some other fine listening from the year, here’s another handful of (in my opinion) wonderful releases:

X: X-Spurts – the first official release of Australian rock’n’roll misfits 1977 recordings.

Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – Texan instrumentalists broaden their sonic landscape

Okkervil River: I Am Very Far – Lyrically, this is singer/songwriter Will Sheff’s crowning glory

William Elliot Whitmore: Field Songs – A farmer and an acoustic guitar… doesn’t get more real than this

Steve Kilbey & Ricky Maymi: The Wilderness Years – The creative minds of The Church and Brian Jones Town Massacre team up

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Lost Shark Radio #1 – The Paradise Motel, Okkervil River, Explosions in the Sky

I have been swimming in an ocean of great music lately… 2011 has already produced many sparkling gems of albums, so here’s a taste of what has been on high rotation on Lost Shark Radio lately.

The Paradise Motel: I Still Hear Your Voice At Night

This is a darkly romantic album, where loss and distance are always just below the surface. The lyrics are sparse and vulnerable, and much like songwriters such as David McComb, work as fine literature on the page; the instrumentation is ethereal and ominous, building to some heady crescendos. It is a work of complex beauty and rewards repeated listens. 

Okkervil River: I Am Very Far

Front man Will Sheff is one of the finest lyricists currently putting pen to paper. He has the uncanny ability to transform truly dark imagery – A slit throat makes a note like a raw winter wind (The Valley) – into songs that make you want to sing along. The band too are in gut-punching form, building a fiery wall of sound across the album. Here they are live on Letterman performing Rider.

Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Explosions are undoubtedly, one of the finest exponents of lush guitar/drum based instrumental music. Their compositions are adventurous, reverberating with e-bow haze, harmonising guitar feedback and driving drums. Each track rises out of its almost-silence into blissed out, sonic soundscapes. This could well be my preferred soundtrack to this seemingly cold winter…

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Wake up, it’s Sunday!

If you are struggling today, here’s a hit of Okkervil River from their latest album, I Am Very Far. The day is ahead of you… so come on, take Will Sheff’s advice, Wake And Be Fine.

SpeedPoets is waiting for you…

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The longer you live, the better you get

So said Bob Dylan at the tender age of 27 and indeed, he just keeps getting better! Here’s a link to the Smithsonian’s top 10 Dylan Moments. I am sure many of you out there have your own and I would love to hear about them. My number one is definitely seeing Bob backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers aged 15 at Lang Park. That night is forever in my heart and mind.

I also just had to share another of the BBC tributes… this time a show dedicated to the eternally magnificent, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. For me, the album has taken on even greater significance with the death of Suze Rotolo earlier this year. On the show, the best of the British Folk Scene reinterpret the album. here’s the playlist:

Blowin’ in the Wind by Seth Lakeman; Girl from the North Country by Thea Gilmore; Masters of War by Martin Simpson; Down the Highway by While and Matthews; Bob Dylan’s Blues by Ewan McLennan; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Karine Polwart; Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Ralph McTell; Bob Dylan’s Dream by Martin Carthy; Oxford Town by Coope, Boyes and Simpson; Talkin’ World War III Blues by Billy Bragg; Corrina, Corrina by Cara Dillon with The Scoville Units; Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance by Rory Mcleod; and I Shall Be Free by Rab Noakes with Fraser Speirs.

 So Bob, I hope you are celebrating your 70th in style.

The first day of my forties has been wonderful… my lovely wife presented me with the limited edition box set of Okkervil River’s new album, I Am Very Far this morning and it is just magnificent.

It comes in a wooden box and features a print, hard cover lyrics book, 7″ single of two demos, a letter from Will Sheff, the album on deluxe vinyl and CD. I am going to savour this one…

I also managed to set off the fire alarms at my school today and have the whole place evacuated while cooking potato rosti’s. We discovered the fire alarm in is super sensitive!

And tonight we are off to have a Thai feast at our local restaurant.

Yep, feeling really blessed.

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