Okkervil River
Thurs May 19th
1 SW 3rd

"All they ask is where I've been/Knowing I've been west." Though these aren't the words of Okkervil River singer and songwriter Will Sheff--the lyric is '60s folk-legend Tim Hardin's "Black Sheep Boy," also the name of Okkervil's newest release--they serve as a prophetic warning. The songs to come from this ghostly band are steeped in the intrinsic drive shared by those soulful ramblers who follow their hearts to a place dark and unexplored--somehow the only place that feels like home. And Sheff's home is a scary place.

Album opener "For Real" finds the Austin singer calling not only for the blood of she who forsook him, but his own ("Tonight I thirst for real blood/For real knives/For real cries"). This even while he's suggesting they spend a claustrophobic, ruinous night together, a night that will end not only tears, but in the crimson flow of retribution. The tone of Black Sheep Boy, however, is not all woe, and like most Southern Gothic expositions, there's an accessible romanticism straining with undying hope for love and stasis.

Sheff has been compared to Scott Walker, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen, and rightfully so--although Sheff's singing voice most resembles Bright Eyes' Connor Oberst. The music offers listeners the occasional opportunity to languish in a fresh breeze of cool pop as the narrators remind themselves that for all its trying times and dark and lonely nights, being in love, or having been so and lost it, is a benediction that molds a dignified soul.

If you're a fan of Young, Cohen, or Iron and Wine's Sam Beam, hold on to your heart and leave your vulnerability unguarded as you wait for Sheff and Okkervil River's inevitable homecoming.