They say nice guys finish last, but what about weirdos? There’s something about artists, particularly musicians, that give them the carte blanche to wear their heart on their sleeve and then some. This is why, as a general rule, weirdos write the most romantic love songs and Creep wouldn’t be nearly as beloved of a Radiohead song if it was titled ‘Not a Creep, just want to ask you out on a date’. So of course my first foray into this family friendly indie music blog will explore my attraction to charmingly weird musicians and to one particular weirdo that I’ve fallen in love with over the years; one Mr. Will Sheff. Anyone familiar with the Okkervil River frontman’s repertoire of longing, desperation, and unrequited love will not be surprised that Mr. Sheff’s solo branching out project LOVESTREAMS resembles stalker fan mail (in the very best way). In his own words,
I decided to do a project there I’d wanted to do for years and years, which is to make an album by myself and for myself, an album that doesn’t owe anything to music I made before. When I finished the album I decided I’d give some the songs away for free since it cost almost nothing to make.
The first single Shock Corridor has an almost 80s sound to it with its drilling electro tones and hyper personal lyrics. The repetitive electronic rhythms build momentum as the verses progress and the song has a near hypnotic effect. Will Sheff is known for his wailing lyricism but he doesn’t just sing, he whispers and yells and prods. Though LOVESTREAMS’ use of synthesizers and electronic beats is a departure from Okkervil River’s usually organic indie folk sound, it doesn’t take away from Sheff’s brutally honest songwriting. In fact, the use of electro-pop lends a sort of sexiness that ultimately compliments the stories behind Will’s words.
The second single released There’s Video gets even stranger. I don’t even know where to begin with the music video and the entire song is recorded almost as an echo, a recording of a recording. The song is grimy and slightly uncomfortable, like having sex on a particularly unsanitary beach. On a hot day. The syncopated beats drive the song through climax and the variations in the chorus comes back even more pleading the second time. And two thirds of the way through, there’s a freakin’ sax solo. A Sax solo. As if SAX and SEX couldn’t get any more overt. If you pay attention to the lyrics, the words practically salivate.
So if you’re in the mood to get a little weird and send handmade cryptic letters to your internet crush made from cut out old magazines (just spitballing here), I’d wholeheartedly suggest listening to some Will Sheff soaked music for inspiration. I for one am excited for the next LOVESTREAMS release, but in the mean time, there’s six whole Okkervil River albums to fall in love with. For beginners, I’d recommend the wholly excellent and haunting ‘Black Sheep Boy‘ (an album emotionally centered around being in love with damaged individuals that can’t love you back and/or being one yourself) or the rambunctious and spit-fired ‘The Stage Names‘ (about the emptiness and disillusion of fame for a traveling rock and roll band). I would love to write scores on both those albums but sadly that would be enough for another handful of posts. So until next time, stay weird.