Just how far are you?

Many people have yet to be introduced to a band today that unequivocally takes the cake, giving listeners both a breath of something emotionally organic and stylistically sound.

Many people have yet to be introduced to a band today that unequivocally takes the cake, giving listeners both a breath of something emotionally organic and stylistically sound. The Austin-based band Okkervil River, formed in 1998, has been respectively turning heads since it released its third full-length album “Black Sheep Boy” in 2005. This epic record came unto critics as something that successfully delved into the mind of another, bringing images of a struggling youth amongst an array of key decisions tagged with a bout of collected angst.

In the past, the members of Okkervil River have been labeled (quite unfairly) as indie folk rockers who belt out their madness lyrically, which revolves around runaway sons, abused daughters, damaged relationships and lost loves. However, their new album challenges these claims and proves that this quaint little alternative country band has much more up its sleeve.

Looming ahead is their sixth full-length album “I Am Very Far,” due to be released May 10 on Jagjaguwar Records. Drawing in an already hefty fan base by allowing listeners to live vicariously through novel-like lyrics, Will Sheff acts as the group’s main creative vein. An English major and prior music journalist, Sheff graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and presumably didn’t know where to go with that degree, ultimately forming a band with some buddies that has eventually led to his accelerated claim to fame throughout the music world.

Opposed to the group’s past work thus far, “I Am Very Far” starts out with an impressive ballad, “The Valley,” a song filled with slow grooving melodies that grow heavier and heavier as the song progresses. Weighing down the beat, the drummer punishes his snare, evoking a dry and very loud bang that may rip through your headphones at first but brings the album to life.

“I Am Very Far” features a crooning voice wound within the most intricate songs Sheff has produced to date. His lyrics still reflect the cleverness and dark-witted humor found on his previous numbers, although Sheff has now moved into more of an accessible theme.

Besides its further explorations of integrating more keys and synthesizing factors, Okkervil adds in another layer of newly founded creativity by making this record unfold as a continuous cinematic experience. The listener, if not carefully keeping an eye out, can be easily sucked into the album as a whole, as the track numbers covertly whizz by without any noticeable changes. Sheff also dips into utilizing a technique representing the familiar sounds that Phil Spector first came up with in the ’60s and coined as the “wall of sound.” The famed technique can be heard on the songs “Wake and Be Fine” and “Rider.” The process involved a symphony of musicians: two drummers, seven guitarists, two pianists and two bassists. The process was also discussed in an interview with Sheff for Pitchfork in early February:

“All at the same time, in the same room. If any one person made a mistake, they would ruin the whole song. Everybody felt this immense amount of pressure. We all had to give the best performance of our lives at the same time for this to work, or else it was our personal fault that we ruined it. At the same time, if you get really excited and try to make it a great performance, you actually might make it worse. We would usually start at 3 p.m. and go until midnight, just doing one song again and again.”

These are just mere examples of how Sheff is trying to break away from the distinguished class of folksy singer/songwriters that plague his reputation as an overall artist. This album displays throughout an artist trying to break away from his norm and show what he can truly produce.

Falling into more of a category along the lines of a Wilco type, these guys, as talented as they are, are going to have to wait awhile until they are recognized for their talent to the point they deserve. Displaying a much wider sound palette and new recording styles, a band emerges that has come a long way from playing endless small shows and working hard to be able to do what they love. ?