77.) Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (2005)
There are about a half dozen bands that I've discovered this decade that have managed to make the leap into the "some of my favorite bands" conversation. Okkervil River are one such band.
Black Sheep Boy was my first Okkervil River and therefore it's a record I have a strong attachment to. I bought Black Sheep Boy on a whim. It had sort of been on my radar for a while before I actually bought it, but for one reason or another I just kept forgetting about it. It wasn't that it didn't sound interesting or sound like something I wouldn't immediately fall in love with, but I guess there were just other things.
But then there are times when you can vividly remember getting something and how that something remained a part of your life for a long, long time. I used to be able to buy records at a greater pace than I am now and would love to go to the record store and just browse and this is how I came to own Black Sheep Boy.
I didn't even remember what it was exactly, but I knew I had heard of it and had meant to get it that someone somewhere talked about it being pretty great. So on a high of that wonderful lost thing called disposable income, Black Sheep Boy made its way into my collection. And then I heard WIll Sheff's voice tear through "For Real" (which is still my go to Okkervil song) and I was under the spell of Black Sheep Boy.
Black Sheep Boy is one of those records I'm thankful I got to hear and even though I would go on to like subsequent Okkervil River records better, none of them can match the feeling of discovery I had with Black Sheep Boy. That moment where I looked around my room and thought "Holy Shit, I'm sad no one else is here to hear this. Why doesn't everyone know this exists? Why did it take me this long to find this?" It was not unlike the first time I heard In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, another one of my favorite records which I sadly came to very late.
Will Sheff sings with a lot of heartache - words drip out, even in the uptempo songs - and I can understand how that can be a bit much for people. Some of Okkervil River's critics have mislabled them as being a bit emo, which is quite absurd as they are one of those bands that you can't easily fit into a category. Will Sheff writes literate songs that, at their best, resemble great short fiction and a lot of the best fiction is devastating. Okkervil River are no different.
Black Sheep Boy certainly provided the doorway for me but my relationship with the band would progress a great deal from there as I would move backward through the discography and forward as new records were released and it's turned out to be one of the most fulfilling relationships I've had all decade long.
NOTE: An EP was released following Black Sheep Boy called Black Sheep Boy Appendix and the record itself was reissued with said EP called Black Sheep Boy:Definitive Edition. I prefer the record without the appendix, though said appendix is a nice companion piece it's the record itself that I fell in love with.
Posted by Pat Driscoll