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Okkervil River - The Stand Ins Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 9.5
Production 8
Creativity 9
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 87%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.92
Musicianship 9.5
Lyrics 9.83
Production 9.08
Creativity 9.42
Lasting Value 9.25
Reviewer Tilt 9
Average: 93%
Inside AP.net

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

Reviewed by: bummerama (01/17/09)
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Release Date: September 9, 2008

No doubt about it, 2008 was a good year for indie rock. As listeners swooned over newcomers Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, veterans Sigur Ros and Conor Oberst reminded their fans that there was a reason we sport their t-shirts. Within this flurry of activity, Okkervil River released The Stand Ins, a sequel to their 2007 effort The Stage Names. Active since 1998, Okkervil River is hardly a new band. Their aggressive and swaggering folk songs have screamed underneath my radar for years. Seeing The Stand Ins on numerous year’s best lists, I decided to check it out – and was floored.

The Stand Ins begins and interrupts with three short-lived and instrumental title tracks. These evanescent tracks evoke inchoate and nascent emotions fully realized in the subsequent and surrounding songs. The second track, “Lost Coastlines” starts with soft acoustic strums, but quickly transforms into a song that shakes and shimmies across a four-four dance floor. After this, “Singer Songwriter” and “Starry Stairs” swagger through deep and jaded views of musical, artistic, and filmic hipsterism. “Blue Tulip” is a piano-ballad/folk hybrid with vocals immediately reminiscent of John Nolan. So ends the first half of the record.

Here we come to the conclusion. Uppity and frantic, “Pop Lie” is a savage send-up of pop music palaver, with a chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. “On Tour With Zykos” and “Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed on the Roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979” initially feature the croons of singer/songwriter Will Sheff in front of a piano and acoustic guitar respectively. Both finish with a flourish, however, and leave you wanting more from an ephemeral, eight-track record.

Lyrically, The Stand Ins picks up where The Stage Names left off, offering incendiary, unforgettable critiques and criticisms of the 21st Century culture of celebrity. The poems thankfully forgo over-generalizations, opting for unabashed and introspective first-person narratives which are told with stunning eloquence and emotion. The album is summed up in one line from “Bruce Wayne Campbell”. Sheff tersely shows how myopic, limited, and ultimately damaging celebrity lifestyle becomes, saying “I lived my yearning but in every bed… /and now with nothing to consume/ it’s turned on me in my glass room/ where I’ll burn, you think I’m finished/ think I’m not winning/ well go on, assume.” In one half-stanza, Will Sheff sums up the tragedies of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Heath Ledger, and so many others crushed under the weight of paparazzi gold.

This is not a perfect record. Much like Bright Eyes, Will Sheff’s vocals are rough at times, and the music at first appears to be mundane, garage-band fare. However, Sheff’s singing voice eventually becomes endearingly emotional, and conveys outsider-opinions as if they were his own. Swelling strings and horns, which are handled very subtly (as opposed to other, more shameless, failed attempts at such artistry) become salient and brilliant. Given more than one listen The Stand Ins will grab you, shake you, and not let you go.

The Stand Ins flew under the proverbial noses of many people this year, but this is not a record that should go unnoticed. On top of presenting the listener with delightful ear-candy, the album sheds new light, and new perspectives on pop culture.

myspacewww.myspace.com/okkervilriver
 
Displaying posts 1 - 14 of 14.
11:02 PM on 01/31/09
#2
SethGrandpa
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It's funny cause I sent in a review of this and was too lazy to change it for formatting. Except that my review was the exact opposite. I don't care for the album at all. It does nothing half as good as anything on Stage Names.
12:20 AM on 02/01/09
#3
TyroneShoolaces
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Love this album so much. Last few Okkervil River records should not be passed up.
07:19 AM on 02/01/09
#4
FeynmanWannabe
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My favorite album of the year, probably third favorite from the band.
08:59 AM on 02/01/09
#5
SomethingClever
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thanks for the review. I love this album and band. They seriously have yet to dissapoint me and i can't imagine them ever doing so. Lyrically some of the best stuff I've ever heard.
09:24 AM on 02/01/09
#6
Kid B
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Vocals should be a lot higher than a 7.
09:29 AM on 02/01/09
#7
RonMexico
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It's funny cause I sent in a review of this and was too lazy to change it for formatting. Except that my review was the exact opposite. I don't care for the album at all. It does nothing half as good as anything on Stage Names.
I can't disagree more. This record is nothing short of brilliant, as its a continuation of the Stage Names. Play them back to back, it fits like a puzzle piece.
11:50 AM on 02/01/09
#8
Holly HoX!
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the last song, which takes its own spin on Sloop John B (my favorite beach boys song), was enough to make me love this album.

props for reviewing a great band people need to know about.
12:23 PM on 02/01/09
#9
FeynmanWannabe
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the last song, which takes its own spin on Sloop John B (my favorite beach boys song), was enough to make me love this album.

props for reviewing a great band people need to know about.
That'd be The Stage Names, not The Stand-Ins
12:26 PM on 02/01/09
Cuddleworthy
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vocals - 7? nah
02:16 PM on 02/01/09
Casey's Dad
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Singer Songwriter is far and away my favorite off this album. Each and every one of their albums is a gift to the listener so don't pass this up.
02:27 PM on 02/01/09
Holly HoX!
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That'd be The Stage Names, not The Stand-Ins
oops
06:49 PM on 02/01/09
bummerama
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Thanks for the feedback! Yea, I love this record a lot. I understand that it's polarized some fans (I've read Rolling Stone's less-than-favourable review, and others like it), but everytime I listen to it, and the records from Okkervil that I bought (Down the River of Golden Dreams, Black Sheep Boy, and The Stage Names), it hits me a little harder that this is a band that needs more exposure and is too important to pass up.

Giving the Vocals a 7 was more for people listening to the record for the first time. Will Sheff's vocals are not clean, and, like Conor Oberst or Tim Kasher , or other great singers like that, it takes a couple listens to get used to it, at least for me. I would feel like I was lying if I gave them more than that, even if it adds up to a worse score than the record deserves. This would be in my top 3 for the year.
01:54 AM on 08/25/11
and1234z
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Aw Yeah.
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