Okkervil River

Okkervil River
The Stand Ins

Released yesterday was the second half of the double album The Stage Names: the new Okkervil River album, The Stand Ins. It has been a long road for these six Texans who formed in 1998. It only took them a single album, Stars Too Small To Use, to catch the attention of Jagjaguwar, an Indiana label established in 1996 (and ultimately EMI in Europe). Though they met in New Hampshire, they’ve stayed true to an indie-folk sound that a Texas music scene has no doubt helped in developing. Since gaining quite a lot of attention at South by Southwest, they’ve played with a number of well-known acts including Lou Reed, The New Pornographers and The Decemberists. We can only wait to hear what their sixth album will sound like, but The Stand Ins is certainly worth a listen.

Though not for download, the entire album is up for listening on the group’s myspace, not an unordinary practice for the boys who in December of last year released Golden Opportunities Mixtape, a free album of live content. The Stage Names (the first album) was very successful, possibly due to its intensely emotional nature. The track list included two works based on the tragic lives of ‘Shannon Wilsey,’ an x-rated actress, and John Berryman, an introspective poet who ultimately took his own life. The album had a number of unfinished songs that were never included, but have finally been released.

The Stand Ins is very diverse within the alternative folk space through which OK River flows. Some songs draw on long and slow for over five minutes churning out a careless BJM-style ballad (‘Bruce Wayne Campbell Interview’), some songs are single-styled and made for the live performance (‘Pop Lie’). Still, some songs have the lonely and rugged sound that Will Sheff and the others are known for. As usual the group uses Dylan-esque absurd song titles that hint at hidden meaning and depth. Okkervil River are still very relevant to music today and can still contribute in ways that no other artists can, but ten years can wear sometimes even harder on the independent artist. In a short clip created for the album’s release, Sheff left his audience with a cryptic message when he explained, ‘There’s a quality that you can get when you’re playing and something’s not working and you know something’s not working and you don’t know what’s good about what you’re playing anymore and you start to feel resentful towards everyone and resentful towards yourself and then that red light rolls and you’re like ‘I should not be doing music, I’m just going to quit, like I’m going to finish this album and I’m never going to record again ’cause clearly I’m not cut out for it.”


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