Though I could easily (and happily) write about at least twenty-five Okkervil River songs today or any day, the point of this site, at least in its infancy, is to try and write about a song each week that is particularly relevant to me during the time in which I’m writing it. Whether the connection is thematic, lyrical, musical, or any other way in which I’m able to make it, the point is to document not only a song but, in a way, a life.
And so sitting down to write about music this week, I can’t seem to escape “Seas Too Far To Reach”. It’s a song that, at first blush, seems to be about a sense of yearning - a notion brilliantly captured in the song’s title metaphor alone - and this has certainly been, for me, a week of (a month of, a year of, a lifetime of) yearning.
What exactly it is that’s being longed for, within the song, seems at times overt and definable (Let’s go back up to your house, and take our clothes off, and just push and pull ourselves until we’re deep inside of sleep) and at others more achingly vague (And we’ll walk and quietly talk all through the country of your skin, made up of pieces of the places that you’ve dreamed and that you’ve been). It’s a dance between the specific and the subjective, a dance that Okkervil’s chief singer/songwriter Will Sheff, in particular, has been so expertly playing out over these past several years. It’s a dance I never fail to fall for.
In addition to the ache and yearning - or, perhaps, to highlight it all the more - “Seas Too Far Too Reach” is also a song about sex, about the sadness and messiness of life, about the interplay of dreams and reality. (You know, typical mindless pop song stuff.)
There is also, finally, the issue of the mandolin and how it adds a seafaring thrust to a narrative already ripe with nautical allusions. Listening to its flourishes, it becomes even easier to imagine one’s self on a boat somewhere, on a lonely sea but for a close-knit group of friends gathered around the bow, determined to help you find whatever it is you’re looking for. I’m not sure any of this is intended, exactly, but it’s nonetheless what emerges when I listen. And somewhere between those oceanic sounds and the lyrics’ hopeful but lonely grasp for something to hold on to amidst the gathering storm - a person, a body, a peaceful slumber - I find myself playing the song, this week, on an almost endless loop.