Okkervil River - The Stage Names

Album keempat dari band yang berasal dari Austin, TX ini brilliantly mendapatkan highly acclaimed critics dari berbagai situs musik terkemuka. Thanks to the fuzzy-folk-rock vibe, The Stage Names is a relatively straightforward roots-rock record, rounded out by clever, pop-culture-obsessed songs. Melangkah lebih maju dari album sebelumnya, The Black Sheep Boy,
beberapa angle kasar dan hook-hook emosional diramu menjadi satu rasa di dalam good-spirited rock n' roll yang sejuk. Track pembuka yang berjudul Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe cerdas mengawali album dengan power yang cukup garang ala Arcade Fire, disusul Unless it's Kicks yang masuk menghantam dengan drunken guitar intro ala Walkmen, lalu diikuti sejumlah Pavement-esque ballads dan breakdown rock yang depressing yet addictive.

A Girl in Port dengan gaungan manis lap slide guitarnya menjadi key track sekaligus anchor di album ini. Album ini ditutup track John Allyn Smith Sails yang berkisah tentang coming home, moaning "..and so i fly into the brightest winter sun, of this frozen town i'm stripped down to the vault. My friends i'm gone..", Just a brilliant ending. Sound Okkervil River mempunyai keserupaan dengan The Decemberists, Neutral Milk Hotel, bahkan young Mr. Oberst and yet they seem to take the best parts of those three groups and leave out their less attractive qualities. While their records seem to have themes and use grandiose arrangements, they're nowhere near as theatrical, comical, over-the-top or downright silly as hipster favourites The Decemberists. Likewise, Will Sheff's songwriting is certainly not short on the sad bastardness of Bright Eyes, but it manages to exist without the melodrama and with far more to offer the listener. Finally, Okkervil River are far more readily accessible and less cryptic than Neutral Milk Hotel, both lyrically and in the existence of a singer with a voice that's, you know, listenable. With all of these things in mind, it's confusing and mildly frustrating that Okkervil River haven't caught on at the same level as the rest of these bands, but with a bit of luck, The Stage Names will be the record that does it for them.