No fair dragging Austin acid gods the 13th Floor Elevators into the conversation, but if this collaboration isn’t one of the best albums Erickson’s attached his name to in the past three decades, I’ll eat a ream of blotter paper. Okkervil’s Will Sheff selected the track list from a collection of 60 largely unreleased songs (a couple appeared on 2005 anthology I Have Always Been Here Before), some written while Erickson served a nightmarish three-year sentence in Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane after his arrest for the possession of a single joint in 1969, and Sheff’s band makes an unexpectedly awesome foil for Erickson’s psychedelic garage rock and (very) countrified blues. “Devotional Number One” starts the album off with a hissing, lo-fi meditation on Jesus, Moses, and hallucinogenic mushrooms that ends in unspooling tape loops, and could practically have served as a template for half the songs Daniel Johnston ever wrote. After that, “Ain’t Blues Too Sad” hits like a tear-in-my-beer sucker punch, but Erickson’s voice sounds good with the twang turned up, a tactic used throughout the album to awesome effect every time, and the song’s lyrics live up to its title: Erickson’s had plenty to cry about. “Goodbye Sweet Dreams” splits the difference with some pentagrams and other mysticism, to boot, like a four-and-a-half minute Erickson primer. On the other hand, the lyrics to “Please, Judge” (“Don’t send or keep that boy away/ and society I wish you’d let him stay”) and “John Lawman” (“I kill people all day long/ I sing my song”) would be too weak to stand without knowledge of Erickson’s personal history or Okkervil’s backing instrumentation — near-ambient headfuckery and panic-attack shriek rock, respectively. But an album on which these two tracks are the low point is a hell of an achievement, and Erickson & co. sing the title track’s optimistic mantra with such conviction you almost believe it yourself. — Jeremy Martin
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