Okkervil River
The Stand Ins


4.0
excellent

Review

by JAD USER (11 Reviews)
September 10th, 2008 | 25 replies | 7,292 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Wordy indie rockers continue to outperform their peers

3 of 4 thought this review was well written

On paper there is little that sets Okkervil River apart from a host of similarly minded indie rockers. They’re a scrappy collective, with a literary minded frontman who’s yelpy voice is equally indebted to Robert Smith and Morrissey. Throughout their records, strings, horns, mandolin, and pedal steel – all hallmarks of the new millennium of indie rock – will pop up. Yet Okkervil River have managed to become one of the most interesting and enjoyable bands playing today.

It helps that they have two great albums behind them: 2005’s dark Black Sheep Boy and last years The Stage Names. Both are concept albums with strikingly different themes. Black Sheep Boy makes good on its title, weaving a tale of murder and betrayal, while The Stages Names takes a wry, at times melancholic, look at show business. The bands latest record, The Stands Ins is a continuation of The Stage Names, following its tone both musically and lyrically (the album covers even synch up) Fortunately, the album also follows The Stage Names in quality. Though the album was recorded in a state of lineup flux – Charlie Bison of the Wrens fills in on electric guitar and keyboardist Jonathan Marburg left the band shortly after this was recorded – the band sounds tight and focused without undercutting their ramshackle sound.

The Stand Ins opens with the jaunty, bouncing “Lost Coastlines”. Will Sheff, the bands frontman and primary songwriter, transitions from a suave croon to his more recognizable yelping as he tells the story of a lost castaway. Sheff manages to be both bitingly funny and wistfully melancholic throughout the album. On “Singer Songwriter”, he details a wealthy, talentless songwriter, and then follows it with the mournful “Starry Stairs”. Here, over a catchy minor groove, he sings from the perspective of a pornstar: “They ask for blood/what to you think this woman’s made of/I stuck a small thin pin in my thumb/they dreamt a low, long line to be crossed/and I crossed”. Both these songs are sequels of sorts to songs from The Stage Name (“You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock ‘n Roll Man” and “Savannah Smiles” respectively), but they flesh out different aspects of their characters.

Scheff has a certain knack for writing about musicians. Besides “Singer Songwriter”, he turns in songs like the frenetic new wave of “Pop Lie” about the “liar who lied in his pop song”. “On Tour With Zykos” stands as an affecting portrait of both groupies and the musicians who attract them. The songs closing line, “so I wonder who you got your hooks in tonight/was she happy to be hooked /and on your arm did she feel alive/her head alright” offers a succinct view of the bitterness that tinges Sheffs work. But even when Sheff’s words become overly literary, the band’s fine tuned racket always livens things up. The horn arrangements and simple, driving rhythms help flesh out Sheffs lyrics.

The Stand Ins, much like Okkervil River’s other albums, shines as a cohesive album. Though all the songs, save for the orchestral snippets interspersed throughout the album, stand up on their own, they fit perfectly with one another throughout the album’s forty minutes. Okkervil River seem untouched by the digital age, content to make fascinating albums that are designed to ebb and flow.



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user ratings (140)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Alex Silveri EMERITUS (4)
With its sweeping blend of dense folk-rock and free flowing narrative courtesy of lyrical genius Wil...


Comments:Add a Comment 
sadmafioso
September 10th 2008



318 Comments


nice, i will get this

JAD
September 10th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haven't written a review in a really long time, but this album definitly deserves one. couldn't think of an ending, which is why its kind of abrupt.

jrowa001
September 10th 2008



8749 Comments


this is a cool album

lunchforthesky
September 10th 2008



1039 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah this album is great. I agree with everything you said. Probably my album of the year so far but it's been a very crappy year.

iamrockzorz
September 10th 2008



1028 Comments


this album is delicious... on tour with zykos is so perfect

I'm actually liking this better than the stage names, its more consistent

iamrockzorz
September 10th 2008



1028 Comments


and his name is will sheff

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2008



17114 Comments


lovely album.

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2008



20800 Comments


Good review JAD. Very well described and the information parts of it helped as well.
There is a small spelling mistake in the 2nd paragraph; "Sink" should read "synch" I think. Hey, that rhymed! Watch out Kanye!

AtavanHalen
September 11th 2008



17927 Comments


Champ Kind v Kanye West in squidbrain rap battlez

JAD
September 11th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Synch/Scheff typos fixed, thanks for telling me

natey
September 11th 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Scheff such a killer lyricist. This is easily as good as The Stage Names

timbo8
September 11th 2008



618 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'll be listening to this very soon.

iamrockzorz
September 12th 2008



1028 Comments


Naw, his names is SHEFF

JAD
September 12th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fixed

Cesar
September 14th 2008



2732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not my type of music, but very good.

Bleak123
September 15th 2008



1902 Comments


I really have to get this, sounds so good.

JAD
September 15th 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks for the feature!

brandtweathers
September 15th 2008



2009 Comments


jom's evil twin!

timbo8
September 23rd 2008



618 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

another great album from them

Mendigo
October 25th 2008



2299 Comments


my first okkervil river album, though I've already heard (and liked) some of their other stuff. I really like it, gonna get the others as well.
On Tour With Zykos rules so much.



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