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Okkervil River: The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar Records)

CD Review

By Brian Baker · August 1st, 2007 · Short Takes
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  OKKERVIL RIVER -- The Stage Names
OKKERVIL RIVER -- The Stage Names



It's no surprise that Okkervil River's catalog has a distinct album-to-album feel, as frontman Will Sheff has been the only consistent member since the band formed in Austin, Tex., nearly a decade ago.

But the band's shifting sonic point isn't just a product of their rotating lineup; Sheff's creative vision includes throwing himself a lot of curve balls in the writing and arranging process to keep the songs fresh and engaging. For The Stage Names, Sheff decided against the bleak gravity of the Okkervil's last album, 2005's Black Sheep Boy, in favor of a slightly more spritely and upbeat atmosphere, which he then subdivided into a nine-song suite of distinct yet subtly threaded tracks. The Stage Names opens with the dramatic Glam Chamber Pop swing of "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" and "Unless It's Kicks," both sporting a Baroque, Strokes-tributing-the-Shins-and-Kinks vibe, which eventually gives way to the Magnetic Fields lilt of "Savannah Smiles" and the clever Wallflowers-fronted-by-Grant-Lee-Phillips wordsmithing of "Plus Ones" (with lyrical references to TVC 16, the 97th tear, 8 Chinese Brothers, etc.). Sheff plays Marc Bolan-on-a-Folk-Pop-jag on "You Can't Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man" and incorporates the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" into the album's Jimmy-Webb-meets-Lou-Reed closer, "John Allyn Smith Sails." (Brian Baker)Grade: B+

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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