Release Date: Apr 5, 2005
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Rocking Vicar, the music-based email newsletter, has a regular feature called Single Use Songwords, celebrating unorthodox additions to pop's vocabulary. It should clear space for the fourth album from Austin, Texas's Okkervil River, whose prolix frontman, Will Sheff, finds room for such Scrabble-champ words as "oubliette", "diapason" and "abecedarian". Black Sheep Boy is that kind of record.
Okkervil River continue to break the glass between messy nerves and orchestrated elegance on their fourth full-length, Black Sheep Boy, titled after the lovely song penned by Tim Hardin with which the band opens the record. However, their take on the song feels a bit rushed and uneventful, which knocks the tender breath from the lyrics and presents a clumsy start. Opening the record this way is the singular yet major complaint of the album, ironically pushing "Black Sheep Boy," the intended centerpiece, to the outskirts of the album's overall feel.
Both the short story and the song excel at revealing nothing concrete while suggesting everything hidden. Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” a classic of the former medium, hits with sledgehammer emotion, but the reader never learns what really happens between the conversing couple. Songs, too, exploit the clandestine and the oblique for maximum atmosphere.