Fresh from backing the legendary Roky Erickson on 2010’s triumphant True Love Cast Out All Evil, Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff decided to head home to his native New Hampshire to carve out the meat of the group’s sixth long-player. The resulting I Am Very Far, which was produced by Sheff, feels both transitory and triumphant, successfully integrating the Austin, Texas-based collective’s penchant for lovelorn, indie Americana with the wild abandon of 21st century pop music’s increasingly blurry genre borders. Elements of Wilco, the Flaming Lips, Springsteen, Talking Heads, Arcade Fire, and even the Fixx burn through I Am Very Far, down lightning rods affixed to the myriad studios procured by Sheff and crew throughout the record’s intentionally sporadic recording schedule. Production styles vary from track to track, which in lesser songwriting hands, could spell disaster, but Sheff's a gifted lyricist and his melodies have always been sneakier than they appear upon first listen, which makes the transition from a cut like “The Valley,” with its motor-mouthed, electro-apocalyptic pulse, into the late-night, Bowie-esque soul jam “Piratess” feel surprisingly natural. Elsewhere, stand-out cuts, such as the soaring “Rider,” the lovely and languid “Hanging from a Hit,” the ramshackle “Your Life as a Blast,” and the rousing first single “Wake and Be Fine” stand up to anything on 2007’s near-classic Stage Names, and while they may not share that record’s remarkable sense of place, they each confidently occupy a space of their own making.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger