Okkervil River's aptly titled Sleep and Wake-Up Songs is a five-song primer for the forthcoming full-length Black Sheep Boy. Led by the pained tenor of Shearwater frontman Will Sheff, the Lone Star State sextet mines the same vein of Americana as the Scud Mountain Boys and Will Oldham, focusing on the many guises of heartache with sharp lyrical imagery and chamber pop nuances. Sheff's protagonists are in a perpetual state of yearning. On the lonesome opener, "A Favor," his love interest bemoans, "I would be anything that you wanted me to be/But how could I change my body," between bouts of alcohol-induced vomiting. Dark for sure, but the warm horns, weepy lap steel, and affective backing vocals from Nicole Evans pull much of the material out of the razor-lined bathtub. There's a general looseness to Sleep and Wake-Up Songs that goes hand in hand with the EP format -- laid-back, key-ambivalent vocals and such -- but Sheff's sharp references to everything from Star Wars sheets to slicing your flesh up with a pinecone, as well as the atmospheric arrangements, keep this slice of the bigger pie sweet and sinful.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger