Posted by: Ryan Allen on September 12, 2008 at 10:52 am

Okkervil River, The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar, 2008)

MP3: “Lost Coastlines”

Offered as a sequel to 2007’s The Stage Names, Okkervil River’s fifth full length album The Stand Ins further mines the subject matter of its predecessor: the trials and tribulations of life on the stage. Although thematically meshed with The Stage Names, The Stand Ins works on its own to further showcase one of indie rock’s top lyricists. Will Sheff is at his best when interweaving inner-dialogue with a well-set scene, and the subject matter herein should be something he knows a thing or two about. The album opens with “Lost Coastlines,” a duet between Sheff and his recently departed band mate Jonathan Meiburg. The parting was amicable, but the deeper anxiety is apparent throughout the song’s unfolding (“Sit down on the prow to wave ’bye,’ because there might not be another stop farther on the line”). The behind-the-scenes uncertainty and underdog status of The Stand Ins’ main players pulls you in with a literary intensity that few songwriters can muster. Combined with well-crafted melodies, forward propulsion and driving builds, the music keeps up with and perfectly compliments each story line. Despite the lack of any showstoppers like The Stage Names’ opener, “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe,” The Stand Ins sneaks its way into your consciousness. And when Sheff sings, “I’ve got my ear against the screen. I feel your feelings crackling through every single inch of me. I’m going to make you mean it” it’s clear that he can, and even clearer that you will. — Laura Witkowski

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