Okkervil River
In The Rainbow Rain


3.5
great

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
May 1st, 2018 | 38 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: May God have mercy on the polyglot.

Will Sheff has a bit of the prophet in him. “Okkervil River R.I.P” was an appropriate opening track for 2016’s Away, a loose, melancholy collection of Americana and folk wracked by pain and self-doubt. In how the song presaged what in hindsight was a clear demarcation point for the band, it was certainly fitting. After Away, there was some doubt that Okkervil River would even remain a thing; that Sheff would come back two years later with an entirely new band and a sound light years away from that dreamy grief should be surprising, but Okkervil River long ago forgot the concept of a band in favor of becoming a vehicle for Sheff’s emotional turmoil and incisive lyrics. Certainly this hasn’t been a bad thing: I’m of the opinion that Away and 2013’s The Silver Gymnasium are perfect because they bore so deep into Sheff’s encyclopedic neuroses, married to an eye for craftsmanship that has few peers in modern indie. In The Rainbow Rain suffers a bit from Sheff following his muse to a wholly unexpected place, where the guitars unfurl like starbursts, Coldplay surfaces as a touchstone on the treacly “How It Is,” and clichés like “if you’re gonna love somebody / you gotta lose some pride” pop up more than usual. “In places, the record deals with trauma, betrayal and shame, but actually, it’s supposed to be a good time,” Sheff has said, and that’s the general vibe of In The Rainbow Rain: fucked up, but enjoyably so.

The dip into more maudlin territory may be the result of the more democratic process that birthed this record – Sheff’s incorporation of the Away touring band into the newest iteration of Okkervil River extended to the songwriting as well – or it may simply be Sheff’s way of letting his hair down. Either way, In The Rainbow Rain is an uncommonly jaunty listen. It’s difficult to imagine the Okkervil River of Black Sheep Boy putting a track as singularly California cool as “Don’t Move Back To LA,” a knowing wink if there ever was one. When Sheff both spits on and wraps himself in that stereotypical Angeleno artifice, polished to that ‘70s, Laurel Canyon sheen, you can be forgiven for thinking the initial smirk was the whole story, rather than the exquisite homage the track becomes. While there are more lyrical clunkers than perhaps expected, in particular “Love Somebody” and the trudging, faux catharsis of closer “Human Being Song,” Sheff remains the best in the business of marrying compelling metaphors for the jumbling mess of human life to first-rate hooks. “Famous Tracheotomies” is an immediate highlight, a catalogue of famous artists who went through the titular procedure, like an infant Sheff once did, and often didn’t come out through the other side. It’s an odd little autobiographical ditty that organically builds upon itself over and over again before finishing as a resounding celebration of human frailty and life. It’s a rare gift to be able to turn something so cheesy on its face into a touching portrait of empathy.

That dexterity is apparent in the lush sonic palette Okkervil River draws from here. On the epic “The Dream and the Light,” a track that somehow never feels as long as it is, Okkervil River raise a lighter in the air to ELO before down-shifting to optimistic adult contemporary on “Love Somebody” and then proceeding to get lost in the hazy, twinkling soundscapes on “Family Song” and “Shelter Song,” two sides of the same breezy coin. “Pulled Up The Ribbon” is certainly the most arena rock Okkervil River has ever gotten, mainlining off the sort of riff you could have sworn you’d heard on the radio before. That the song can share space with the slight, rambling “External Actor,” a twangy alt-country ditty, without severing the wide-eyed optimism that is In The Rainbow Rain’s most persistent aesthetic is perhaps the record’s finest achievement. “You gotta learn how to hang with the freaks and the hicks / in the heat of the lot you gotta learn what is and what is not / and you learn what isn’t is not a lot,” Sheff sings on “External Actor,” before ending with a carefree intonation that resolves into Okkervil River’s version of a lullaby: “Neighbor-love and brother-love / and blanketing love of God above / sigh of the river far from shore / silence and the voice don’t speak any more.” The affection and ache of human connection contrasted with a natural beauty, empty and vast yet ultimately reassuring: if that isn’t a fine summation of Okkervil River in 2018, I don’t know what is.




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user ratings (37)
Chart.
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2018


11990 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Pulled Up The Ribbon" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ7bMUsOu7w



finally making an appearance this year bless everyone

Digging: Lucy Dacus - Historian

robin
Emeritus
May 1st 2018


4528 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

they fucked it

DoofusWainwright
May 1st 2018


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

This was...alright. I only downloaded one tune though - External Actor



Big drop off from the last album in terms of quality I’m thinking

theBoneyKing
May 1st 2018


15704 Comments


:D
Wonderful review as usual klap! I’m probably not gonna bother with this album as I’ve only heard their debut.

Digging: Low - Things We Lost in the Fire

JS19
May 1st 2018


6947 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I genuinely think is the natural place for their sound to go - v contemporary and modern but still sounds very Okkervil River. I dunno this is really great to me

Chortles
May 1st 2018


21301 Comments


lovely review. i hope i like this, the last album touched on something special for me

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2018


11990 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lol Doof I agree, but maybe listen to the whole thing first

theBoneyKing
May 1st 2018


15704 Comments


I think he’s saying that he did listen to the whole thing but only decided to save that one song to his library (his last.fm scrobbles confirm this)

DoofusWainwright
May 1st 2018


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Yeah I've listened to the whole thing twice but after the second spin I only really wanted to listen to External Actor a lot more



I might revisit again, I really liked Away - so maybe another song will leap out at me on a third go

DoofusWainwright
May 1st 2018


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm old - I still download and get physical copies of stuff I like

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2018


11990 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ahh got it. Ya I download all my music so that’s what I assumed. External Actor is probs my second fave off this

hazelnutsack
May 1st 2018


32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Their last album was AOTY material once I dove into it more and the vinyl pressing is beautiful. Still gotta give this one more time but so far it’s pleasant. Not on the same level as Away though

JS19
May 1st 2018


6947 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I feel like I'm hearing a different album

FadedSun
May 1st 2018


1892 Comments


I only know of this band because I saw a girl waiting at the bus station with me one day with a tattoo of the album art for "Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See" along with the album title tattooed around it. At first I thought it was just some strange original art and she was making a point to remind herself not to fall in love with random people, but then I googled it later and found the band.

ProjectFreak
May 2nd 2018


3191 Comments


this sorta folksy rock is usually not my thing at all, but I liked this more than I'd expect. always happy to read a klap review.

TwigTW
May 2nd 2018


3515 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Famous Tracheotomies is ridiculously good, especially considering its subject.

Digging: The Bathers - Sunpowder

Sunnyvale
May 2nd 2018


891 Comments


Didn't know this was coming out, the last album was one of the best things released in the last five years, excited to hear this.

WillieD
May 2nd 2018


186 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I found this album to be quite disappointing. Had a hard time getting through half of it.

Pheromone
May 3rd 2018


6501 Comments


I think this is a lot better than it's getting credit for - I was expecting a snooze fest, but I really enjoyed it. 'The Dream and the Light' in particular is so so good

Digging: Wussy - Funeral Dress

DoofusWainwright
May 3rd 2018


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Phero, for you I'll give this yet another go, I was hoping for another 'Away' I think



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