Dusted Reviews

Okkervil River - Sleep and Wake-Up Songs

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Okkervil River

Album: Sleep and Wake-Up Songs

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: May. 15, 2005

Since their 1999 debut album, Texas’ Okkervil River have been repeatedly compared to the likes of Bright Eyes and Neutral Milk Hotel. Lead vocalist/songwriter Will Sheff’s tendency to over-sing and acute sense of melodrama puts him somewhere between Conor Oberst and Jeff Magnum, while lacking the former’s self-pity schtick and the latter’s lyrical inscrutability. All of which has put Okkervil River in the middle of the proverbial indie-folk road, too much for some, not enough for others. Sleep and Wake-Up Songs, an EP released prior to the band’s new full-length Black Sheep Boy, demonstrates this dynamic (or lack thereof) perfectly.

In just under 30 minutes, Sheff offers five hauntingly sad narratives that look to his trademark vocals for peaks and valleys, letting the acoustic based instrumentation float by without much hold on the listener. If in fact Okkervil River are attempting to establish a breezy, un-dynamic mood, as the title seems to suggest, the results decidely mixed. Sleep and Wake-Up Songs is saved from resembling an extended lullaby by the dark realism of Sheff's lyrics.

The almost too-pleasant opener “A Favor” sounds closer to contemporary rock-radio balladry than some of Okkervil’s earlier Americana-tinged tracks, but its pseudo-sexual narrative, sung with all the emotion Sheff can muster, injects some much-needed deviance. Perhaps if the music was imbued with the same emotional force as Sheff’s vocals, this EP could be a cathartic listen. As it stands, the songs sound uneven and uncomfortable in their limbo, not quite ready to touch the peaks Sheff hints at or content to explore instrumental subtlety. In the end, Sleep and Wake-Up Songs feels like a collection of songs that just couldn’t find room on a proper Okkervil River album.

By Jon Pitt

Other Reviews of Okkervil River

Black Sheep Boy

The Stage Names

I Am Very Far

Read More

View all articles by Jon Pitt

Find out more about Jagjaguwar

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.