Thursday, September 6, 2007

Okkervil River - The Stage Names

Okkervil River
The Stage Names
(08.2007, Jagjaguwar)

You know those people you seem to bump into everywhere you go but never really want to talk to. You know them too well to just walk by with a nod of acknowledgment, but not really well enough to have any interests in common, or points of conversation. And they ask a standard like, “How was your weekend?” And you say, “Good,” in that short, slightly higher pitched tone, that does not lend to any further explanation. That is about how I feel about the new Okkervil River album. You ask, “How is the new Okkervil River album?” And in that tone that doesn’t really lend to any further explanation, I say, “good,” and not because I don’t want to talk to you, but because I really don’t have anything to explain about my answer. Is The Stage Names bad? Not in the least. Is it great? Not nearly. It’s much better that mediocre, but not quite good enough to get really enthusiastic about. It’s just good, in a way that doesn’t lend to extensive explanation. The songs are nicely written and pleasantly sung, but there is nothing markedly exceptional about it. But that’s a cop out, so here comes a contrived examination of its merits, demerits, or full disadulations.The album is end heavy, with its best songs coming after the mid mark. The first few songs begin with promise, but generally don’t live up to initial hopes. They linger on the edge of reckless abandon, while never quite obtaining the energy such abandon would give them. The fourth track, “Savanna Smiles,” would be a nice instrumental segue into the second half of the album, were it instrumental, but its not. Too bad. And with track five, the energy emerges, and interestingly enough, it arrives in restraint. “The Plus Ones” succeeds in catching and holding your attention like a good movie, and it does so with an earnestness that is lacking from its energy infused predecessors on this album. The second half of The Stage Names rests more on melody and reveals more of the intricate lyrics that are lost on the frenetic first half. And in the final track, the album fittingly ends by converting into the melody of “Sloop John B.” And so there it is. The album is good.

-Spruce Lee

Okkervil River - "Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe"

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