A Little Christmas Gift from Okkervil River

As any more-than-casual reader of this little site probably knows by now, I really and truly heart Austin folk/rock/pop/whatever band Okkervil River. Frontman Will Sheff is hands down one of the best, most talented songwriters going these days; ignore ’em, and you’re seriously missing out.

Anyway, the reason I’m bringing up OR now is because, well, they’ve handed their fans (and anybody else who’s interested) a happy little Christmas gift, in the form of their new free, downloadable Golden Opportunities “mixtape”. It was recorded live on the road over the past year or so and is a cheery (yeah, right…) little pile of cover songs, with the band interpreting Serge Gainsbourg (“I Came Here to Say I’m Going Away,” w/lyrics apparently translated from French by Sheff), John Cale (“Antarctica Starts Here”), Randy Newman (“Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear”), and Joni Mitchell (“The Blonde in the Bleachers”), among others. Just stop by the band’s Website, and you can download your own copy (complete with printable CD sleeve) and get to listening.

I’ve already checked it out, myself, via the iPod and a drive to work or two, and it’s not bad — I feel a bit embarrassed to admit it, but my favorite track’s actually the live version of one of the band’s own songs, “Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas,” but that’s largely because it’s one of my all-time fave Okkervil tracks to begin with. (It also happens to be the most beautifully, crushingly sad holiday song you’re likely to hear, barring maybe Silkworm’s version of “In the Bleak Midwinter.”) Beyond that, though, I’m impressed by how much the covers sound like, well, Okkervil River songs. If I didn’t know better, I’d be fooled on most of the tracks into thinking that the bulk of the rest of the mixtape was penned by the band, as well. Which is a good thing, because they pull it off nicely, especially on the Gainsbourg and Cale tracks.

The only one where I knew immediately — despite never having heard the song before, mind you — that it wasn’t the band’s song was the Randy Newman song. Apparently Randy Newman just plain defies camouflage somehow; take that as good or bad, as you will…

Post by . This entry was posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007. Filed under Posts.

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