Song: "For Real"
Album: Black Sheep Boy
Artist: Okkervil River
Rating: 8.5 (out of 10) on Pitchfork
From the Pitchfork album review...
Will Sheff sounds mad. Not angry mad, but the other mad-- nearly hysterical. On Okkervil River's fourth album, Black Sheep Boy, he oversings beyond the limits of taste and vocal cords, either belting the notes forcefully or overenunciating his syllables at quieter moments. You can even hear his agitated spittle hitting the microphone on "For Real". It's as if his voice is too small a vessel for the big ideas and even bigger emotions that drive the band...as if the pain and heartbreak around him-- the runaway sons, abused daughters, lost friends, damaged lovers, and doomed relationships that comprise the world of the album-- push him to caterwauling arias, his hysteria barely bottled by the demands of his carefully constructed songs.
I never heard of either Will Sheff or Okkervil River until the moment in late 2005 when I downloaded "For Real" at the recommendation of some long forgotten blog and fell instantly in love. This sparked the beginning of my obsession with all things Sheff-related, spending the next couple years tracking down all of his previous releases, up to and including this August's awesome release of The Stage Names. But the download of "For Real" had a much greater significance in my music life. It was one of the first songs I downloaded and loved strictly off the recommendation of a blog site. At the time, early into my blogging days, I'd only just figured out how to post mp3s to my site (August 26, 2005 was my first post of that kind). And so I was just myself getting into indie rock mp3 blogs like Stereogum (still relatively new at the time) or Gorilla vs. Bear or Largeheartedboy, who were among the pioneers in this field. But what is amazing is that as a result of this burgeoning industry of basically giving away free music to let others know how great it is has revolutionized my listening experience, exposing me to so many new and incredible bands that I may not have heard of otherwise, especially when all the file-sharing sites I used to use got shut down by 2004. Wolf Parade, Okkervil River, and The National were the big discoveries for me during 2005. 2006 introduced Sunset Rubdown and Destroyer and The Mountain Goats and Joanna Newsom into my life. 2007 has brought Handsome Furs and Frog Eyes and Mono and Caspian and Panda Bear and others to my ears. Almost all of this music was discovered from blogs (just like this one!) that led to later purchases of not only full albums, but entire back catalogs. And not insignificantly, much of the raw, emotional, distortion-heavy guitars and straining vocal cadences that I've fallen in love from many of these bands began with "For Real." Just an incredible blast of originality. And great music.
#34 of all Time
Some nights I thirst for real blood,
For real knives, for real cries.
And then the flash of steel from real guns in real life really fills my mind.
Then I really miss what really did exist when I held your throat so tight.
And I miss the bus as it swerved from us and almost came crashing to its side.
Some nights the blood from real cuts feels real nice when it's really mine.
And if you want it to be real, come over for one night, and we can really, really climb,
Those blue bridge lights might really burn most bright while we watch that dark lake rise.
And if you really want to see what really matters most to me, just take a real short drive.
Just a drive into the dark stretch, long stretch of night, really stretch this shaking mind.
And this room, unlit, unheated, and the ceiling striped, and the dark black blinds....
I want to know this time if you’re really finally mine.
I need to know that you're not lying, and so I want to see you tried.
And I don't want to hear you say it shouldn’t really be this way, because I like this way just fine.
'Cause there’s nothing quite like the blinding light when that curtain’s cast aside,
And no attempt is made to explain away the things that really, really, really are behind
You can't hide, you can't hide, you can't hide...