Best of 2008: #12, Okkervil River

Rank: #12
Album: The Stand-Ins
Artist: Okkervil River
Label: JagJaguwar

At #12, we have Okkervil River's latest effort, The Stand-Ins.  I'll start out by admitting that I really wasn't that big of a fan of this album on first, or even second or third listen.  I said as much on this blog, stating that I wasn't all that impressed.  After leaving it to the side for awhile though, I reconsidered.  When judging it as a continuation of 2007's The Stage Names, or as a stand-alone record, the mood and vibe is consistent with what Okkervil is good at- being melancholy Texans.  This group of recordings may even feature a less depressed-sounding Will Sheff than previously encountered.  Further evaluation has led me to consider this as one of their more lively records.

Initially, one may get confused by the placement and inclusion of the three instrumental-type songs (Stand Ins, One through Three, respectively).  The first, I believe, sets you up for the atmosphere you're about to encounter, in contrast to the previous album.  The rest, I'd think, simply provide a breather from the action- a change of pace, if you will.  As for the remaining eight tracks?  Prepare to find them as introspective as always, drawing from love, the trials and tribulations of life, and friends, among other themes.  The first full song, "Lost Coastlines," provides a drawn out and jazzy introduction to the album as a whole, with a fun tambourine beat, as well as, what I think is an homage to "Hearts on Fire" (by John Cafferty, from Rocky IV ) at the end.  I won't say it's a definitively the same, but well, in my mind, it's pretty close.  Tunes such as "Singer Songwriter" and "Pop Lie" also add to the lively atmosphere which the band looked to create here, intermingled with some more somber tracks, including The Stage Names bonus track, "Starry Stairs".  If you're looking for comparisons for these guys, check out Neutral Milk Hotel, Two Gallants and The Good Life.

Best Track: "Lost Coastlines"

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