Okkervil River- The Stand Ins

9 09 2008
The cover of The Stand Ins     






The cover of The Stand Ins


Pull down the shades, lets kill the morning.

John Berryman (excuse me John Allyn Smith), deceased porn stars and the life and times of a band populate Okkervil River’s vast and ever expanding world. Their new album, The Stand Ins sees the band sticking to their formula. Sheff continues to write character-driven stories about obscure individuals that everyone can somehow relate to and at the same time bob their heads. Emotional and well written songs have always served Okkervil River’s fans well and none of them should be upset with their latest offering. One of the only problems with the album is that it’s regrettably short. At eight songs and at just over forty minutes, the songs are filled with horns, jangly guitars, a bouncy rhythm section, and Will Sheff’s best lyrics penned to date. Along with three interludes to tie the album together, the album on the whole is a more than worthy partner to The critically acclaimed The Stage Names.

The first proper track off The Stand Ins, “Lost Coastlines”, features the back and forth vocals of Meiburg (Now of Shearwater) and Sheff, singing about keeping a band together. Soon after, “Starry Stairs” is on of many highlights of the album. The song picks up where The Stage Names’s “Savannah Smiles” left off. Just in case you wanted to know, Savannah Smiles was the name of a movie from which Shannon Wilsey or Savannah, now of deceased porn star fame took her name.

After the bleak Blue Tulip and an interlude, the band launch into Pop Lie. An uncharacteristically fast song on the album that disguises a diatribe regarding the music industry. “Words and music you calculated to make you sing along.” After an ironic handclapping, sing-a-long chorus comes one of the stand out musical phrases on the album. The ending of the song is a 30 second piece with Sheff and acoustic guitars that leads perfectly into On tour with Zykos. It’s this attention to detail and design that helps Sheff and company not only create pop songs but a world in which an album can reside. A band who clearly focuses on the album as a whole as opposed to writing one or two songs with an hour of filler.

On tour with Zykos is the point in the album where you’d begin to think the album was going to loose steam. We’ve seen many a great band fail in attempting the mid-album, mid to slow tempo number, (The awful “Shake it Off” on Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky) and the occasional one succeed in not only making five minutes worthwhile but meaningful. Not that it needs to be said here, but “Lord I’m Discouraged” fits into that second category. Please note that following Sheff’s last words is a minute and a half passage in which the music washes over the listener and cleanses their palette in similar fashion to “Pieholden Suite”. This is just in time for the jangly piano-pop of “Calling and Not Calling My Ex”.

“Bruce Wayne Campbell interviewed on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979” is the peak for me, and it’s right where it should be, at the end of the album. The song serves as an ending to bring the listener to the edge of his or her seat and to ensure that they’ll be around for the next album.

Comparisons will be made. Writing about music is like Dancing about architecture (Says Elvis Costello or Martin Mull) and everyone has their opinion. Stand Ins… Stage Names… Stand Ins… Stage Names… However, in my humble opinion, The Stand Ins is their best work yet. An album fully deserving the praise that it should receive and a band that will surely see their popularity grow. Stay in and listen to the album in it’s entirety, once, twice, five times if you can. It’s an album that grows on the listener and finds a way into their everyday life. Enjoy


We can all look forward to another morning after afternoon and tonight.


Rating: 9.3


Okkervil River’s Myspace page

Buy it from Jagjaguwar

Buy it from Amazon.com







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