Monday, November 12, 2007

Okkervil River - The Stage Names

If you're a connoisseur of Russian literature and enjoy short stories written by Tatyana Tolstaya you may know where the Okkervil River is in St. Petersburg or you may be familiar with an indie rock band from Austin, TX. The band formed in the late 90's, originally consisting of Will Sheff, Zach Thomas, and Seth Warren. All of whom went to high school together back in New Hampshire but relocated to Austin. After some early shuffling of members the lineup now consists of Patrick Pestorius, Jonathan Meiburg, Will Sheff, Travis Nelsen, Scott Brackett, and Brian Cassidy. While their third full-length album Black Sheep Boy put them on the outskirts of the indie radar it is the follow-up The Stage Names that has successfully planted them as a new fixture to the indie rockstar map.

The Stage Names was released August 7, 2007 and almost immediately received critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork and even The New York Times. Make no mistake, this album is a joy to listen to. From front to back there aren't really any throw-away tracks, and by the end actually have you wanting to hear more. Boiled down, Mr. Sheff is the true genius behind the music as he is the writer and arranger of the tunes. He is noted as a smart lyricist, but the music would be far less enjoyable and believable if not for the music the envelops and gives structure to Sheff's message. The sound vacillates between a folk-rock aesthetic and riff-heavy rock but never gets too close to either extreme. Sheff's slower ballads fit nicely in between the tunes that demonstrate the band's full-boar sound. Given their prior trajectory, if this album is any indication of where the band is headed, their next effort should be off the charts.

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