After the introspective 2016 album 'Away', Okkervil River's prime mover and shaker Will Sheff reaches out to channel feelings of outrage and sadness in the immediate aftermath of Trump's election victory.
Yet despite his shock at this news, Sheff still wants to express a buoyant and playful mood. He says: “In places, the record deals with heavy things like trauma and betrayal and shame, but, actually, it’s supposed to be a good time. I hope it’s something fun, that makes people feel happier.”
Produced by Sheff and mixed by Shawn Everett, the ten tunes showcase his offbeat song writing and the musical interplay of his touring band: Benjamin Lazar Davis (bass), Will Graefe (guitar), Sarah Pedinotti (keys) and Cully Symington (percussion).
Sheff is an original songwriter who never feels compelled to stick to conventional subject matter. The opening track, Famous Tracheotomies, is a case in point. This song chronicles notable figures who, like him, have endured live-saving surgery to the windpipe, an operation usually performed to bypass an obstructed upper airway. These names include soul singer Mary Wells, actor Gary Coleman, poet Dylan Thomas and Kink Ray Davies.
Don’t Move Back To LA is the light-hearted yet heartfelt centrepiece of the album which Sheff says "is about my own deep and long-held desire to get the hell out of New York City" and, as such, is a reaction to the suffocating effects of city living with its high temperatures, big houses and life of apparent luxury. The video for this song shows Sheff contentedly communing with nature and interacting with farm animals in New Hampshire.
On other tracks we are invited to appreciate the Springsteen-esque glory of The Dream And The Light; the gorgeously soulful Family Song and the anthemic Pulled Up The Ribbon.
Loving awareness drives External Actor and proceedings close with Human Being Song which urges us to open up our hearts and embrace the positive vibrations.
The overall result is described as "something akin to a modern secular gospel record" motivated by the need for healing and hope. Without being soppy or sentimental, this is feel good music for dark times.