OKKERVIL RIVER  |  Black Sheep Boy Appendix

CDEP | 12"


  1. Missing Children
  2. No Key, No Plan
  3. A Garden
  4. Black Sheep Boy #4
  5. Another Radio Song
  6. A Forest
  7. Last Love Song for Now
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Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy Appendix is not just a companion piece to their critically-acclaimed 2005 release; it's also a condensed, alternate vision of that record's imagery and themes, with the ultimate intent to exhaust and destroy both. This ambitious mini-album rounds up and reworks the band's favorite unfinished songs (tracked for the Black Sheep Boy full-length) and then punctuates and bookends them in brand-new compositions; in the process, it shows songwriter Will Sheff and company both revisiting themes from their past and shooting off in some startling new directions. "Missing Children" entombs an unnerving fairy tale monologue in an arrangement that recalls The Marble Index or Tilt; its melody is reprised twenty minutes later in a frenetic and jangly rocker that might have been hatched from the side of Love's "A House is Not a Motel." In between is everything else; suffocatingly lush string instrumentals, skittering found sounds, lean rockers, deafening epics, the rhythm section interrogating the lead singer, and "Black Sheep Boy #4," which messily dispatches the Black Sheep Boy character in a lurid crime scene high on a plateau of hallucinatory, cinematic folk.

Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy is one of 2005's best-reviewed albums. Writing in the New York Times, Kelefa Sanneh noted that "Will Sheff, leader of the Austin indie-rock band Okkervil River, writes like a novelist. His songs are full of elegant phrases and unexpected images that tell - or don't quite tell - stories of characters trying to figure out if they need each other...The marvelous new Okkervil River album Black Sheep Boy should advance his cult further." The Chicago Tribune's Allison Steward added that "Wordy and dense, prone to murder ballads, full of soft strings and Wurlitzers, [Black Sheep Boy] manages to be both violent and bookish; it's a striking, woebegone work that offers up its charms slowly...The album winds down with the nine minutes-long "So Come Back, I Am Waiting," one of many Okkervil River songs that plays out like the strangest Cocteau movie you've probably never seen," and Stephen Deusner wrote in Pitchfork that "Sheff never overplays his hand and always maintains control, which...makes him at once heartbreaking and somewhat humorous - more self-aware than Conor Oberst, more serious than Colin Meloy, more legible than Jeff Mangum."

This Appendix is Okkervil River's most adventurous and eccentric work so far. Working deliriously long hours with Black Sheep Boy collaborator Brian Beattie, Okkervil River recorded Black Sheep Boy Appendix entirely on spare days and weeks off from their recent tours with the Decemberists, Rilo Kiley, and Earlimart, holding to a self-imposed schedule that left no room for second guessing any decisions. Instead of choosing to keep things simple, though, the band took the opposite approach, trying out any and all production ideas without any time to second-guess them. The resulting work shows the full freedom and playfulness of a band working too fast to wonder and what they're doing and having too much fun to care. Black Sheep Boy Appendix is a wild, sloppy 35-minute rip through a fantastical Technicolor landscape that's crumbling into pieces as it unreels, a last footnote on a strange and dangerous universe before the band departs for points as yet distant and unknown.

(JAG089 released: 11/22/05)

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