Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See

I got two Okkervil River CDs for Christmas last year: I shared my first impression of Black Sheep Boy in The Album Wall's penultimate post of 2015 but it occurs to me I never really mentioned the other album, 2002's Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See, here on the blog.

I'm not sure why: it's a lovely record. In fact, I think I actually preferred it to Black Sheep Boy at first, although the latter album has grown on me since I wrote that slightly lukewarm First Impressions post.

I first heard Don't Fall in Love on the M4, when Vicky and I were driving back from a post-Christmas visit to her parents' house. Its wistful, slightly folky indie sound felt perfect for that sunny December day, although we were both slightly perturbed when that off-key organ solo in Red came in for the first time. 

Skip to 1:21 for the solo. For the record, I love this song, and my ears have gotten used to that one weird bit since December.

'Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See' is a great title for an album, I think, and good advice besides. Will Sheff and co. give the listener ample explanation for that advice over the course of these nine tracks - don't fall in love with everyone you see, because they might cheat on you (as in Lady Liberty), die (like the dog mourned in Dead Dog Song), or straight-up murder you (see Westfall).

But even if none of things happen, it's still made clear that falling in love with everyone and wanting to save every tragic individual you meet is a good way to become exceptionally miserable and distraught. This album is full of vibrantly sad characters, many of whom could probably use some help - there's the cocaine user in Kansas City, the fatherless boy in Happy Hearts, and the estranged mother and daughter in Red, just for starters. But that album title hangs over it all, warning you not to get too invested in these people and their struggles lest you end up heartbroken and driven spare by your own overflowing sympathy. You can't save everyone, is the point.

Far better, perhaps, to do as the couple in Okkervil River Song do: retreat into the wilderness and hide away from the world.

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