"The Stand Ins"
Okkervil River makes music that is joyous and reflective, crafting albums that are easy, worthy listens. The group keeps its solid track record with "The Stand Ins," a carefully orchestrated but rocking follow to 2007's acclaimed "The Stage Names."
One of those bands that has a way of distilling years of rock 'n' roll institutional knowledge into pristine records, Okkervil River succeeds in writing pretty little melodies with ugly little themes.
"Lost Coastlines" is a jangly, upbeat, banjo-sprinkled story of drifting away. "Starry Stairs" pairs smoky organ with anthem-driven horns and lines like, "I'm alive, but a different kind of alive than the way I used to be." "Pop Lie" isn't the semi-ironic lesson in pretense you might expect from its title, instead embracing a pop-rock style with all its ridiculous handclaps and bass line pulses while it mocks the idea.
Album closer "Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed on the Roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979" is as epic as its title, linking pastoral strings and brushed drums with an ode to a glam rocker who died of AIDS in the '80s. Leadman Will Sheff's earnest delivery keeps this or any song from sinking into too-serious or too-heavy territory, and the rest of the band's ease with building up musical emotion pushes "Bruce" and "The Stand Ins" into a welcome wave of energy before it ends.
- Margaret Hair, 4 Points