One of America’s best and most consistent indie bands of the ’00s, Okkervil River is on a tear, seemingly incapable of releasing anything but rousing, rigorously engaging rock’n’roll. On the heels of last year’s well-regarded CD, The Stage Names, the Austin-based quintet returns with The Stand Ins, which is in fact pretty much the second half of last year’s album—not only is the subject matter revisited, but the album covers cleverly connect to one another.
And so, once again, front man and songwriter Will Sheff is singing about an indie rocker’s life on the road, and once again he sidesteps the pitfalls of self-involvement through his engagingly evasive lyrics and his uncanny way with melody and presentation. Snappy and chorus-free, “Lost Coastlines” is built on top of an accelerated Motown groove (think “You Can’t Hurry Love”), over which Sheff sings with a rubbery, David Byrne-like quizzicality. At the same time, there’s a sense of poignancy in the air, having a lot to do with the interludes sung by Jonatahan Meiburg (at 0:41 and 2:09). Meiburg was in Okkervil River until this past spring, when he left to devote himself full-time to his other band, Shearwater (the parting was amicable). When Meiburg enters, the itchy guitar disappears, leaving his croony baritone to float against bass, percussion, and strings, injecting a dream-like vibe into the chuggy ambiance.
The Stand Ins was released last week on Jagjaguwar Records. MP3 via Jagjaguwar.