Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pop culture alert: Okkervil River is about to conquer the world

I'll admit, the subject title of my blog today is far too subjective; entirely open to accusations of hyperbole. Unless you know the band. Then you just shrug your shoulders and say, "yeah, so what else is new?"

Fronted by one of the best songwriters working today, Will Sheff, Okkervil River is playing two gigs in Philadelphia tomorrow, June 3rd. They will be performing at WXPN's weekly "Free at Noon" show on at the station's World Cafe studios down on Walnut Street. Later that evening they'll perform at the Trocodero on Arch Street with Titus Andronicus, an up and coming rock band from Glen Rock, N.J. whose album, "The Moniter" made a lot of critics' best of the year lists in 2010.

Sheff's vocal style of singing puts some listeners off. Some folks don't like his over-the-top delivery or the way his most emotional songs seem to climb into the mind of homicidal psychopaths, intent on getting blood on their hands. Too creepy. Others don't like the way he seems to imitate the worst traits of 1950s crooners like Perry Como and Bobby Darin. Too lame, too retro.

I can't help myself. The guy fronts one of the best bands in the country and he commits himself to his performances like very few other front men will. His on-stage persona is enthralling: a tall, a loose-limbed imitation of Ray Davies in his heyday with the Kinks. Ray Davies is a great songwriter. Will Sheff may be regarded as his equal before his career is done.

If you don't know Okkervil River, this is an opportunity to discover one of the nation's best indy rock bands. Tickets are still available. The link below will give you a taste, his performace of his latest single, "Rider" that closed David Letterman's show on Friday, May 13th.

I Am Very Far, the band's new CD, is getting critical raves and is sure to be near the top of a lot of critics "best of the year" lists, including my own. The new single from the CD, "Rider" is my favorite song of the year so far. You can catch a glimpse of Sheff performing the song on Letterman's show from Friday the 13th at the link below.

If this doesn't impress you, you've probably been listening to Lady Gago too much this month.

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