Since there's only room for one indie rock savior at a time, Okkervil River leader Will Sheff currently gets to play Mark Lanegan to Conor Oberst's Kurt Cobain. Sheff's an equally gifted songwriter with moderately similar stylistic sensibilities, but sans Oberst's magazine covers and prominent positioning on Wal-Mart CD racks -- and with none of that cult-of-personality crap and "new voice of a generation" hype, either. Still, it's tough to imagine anything muddying the impact of Black Sheep Boy, the Texas collective's modest masterpiece of a new album. While Sheff (whose tenor veers between a dusty groan and an impassioned yelp) and his 13 cohorts paint its 11 songs with acoustic guitars, pump organs, mandolins, violins, trumpets, and kiddy instruments to lulling, folksy ends, the lyrics tell darker stories of love, longing and pain -- like biting into a cake made of worms. Whatever personnel configuration Okkervil brings to the stage, the live presentation should be equally mesmerizing, and you just might leave a believer.
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