Okkervil River’s The Silver Gymnasium – an album review

image credit:  paste.com

image credit: paste.com

In about the middle of my third listen to The Silver Gymnasium it hit me – this is my favorite Okkervil River album.  In fact, this the Okkervil River album I’ve been waiting for!

I really like these guys.  But I have pretty consistently enjoyed about half to two-thirds of their records.  Not this time, mister.  William Sheff and his band have brought the goods, and Daddy likes!

During my first listen, I could tell that this was a more focused effort than their previous releases.  Especially compared to 2011’s I Am Very Far, which I could never quite connect with.  It just seemed to kind of meander too much both musically and lyrically.  So I instantly zeroed in on the focus of these new tracks.

To be sure, these songs are unquestionably William Sheff compositions.  That is a great thing because he is a great songwriter.  Lyrically, Sheff is dialed into his wheel-house of nostalgic melancholy.  That became apparent during my second listen.  The stories are rooted in the relationships and experiences of Sheff’s 80’s upbringing, complete with period specific references like playing Atari and tape recorded songs off the radio.  Musically, the songs stay bright with a kind of Craig Finn melded with Van Morrison vibe.  It’s indie folk soul.

“It Was My Season” starts off with saloon style piano that leads to a bittersweet tale of a relationship discouraged by the participants families.  “Pink-Slips” has a lovely beach-side ballad sound.  “Down Down The Deep River” sounds a little like The Killers trying to sound like Springsteen, but it works.  “Walking Without Frankie” sounds like a pop-radio version of Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop”, or Springsteen’s own “State Trooper”.  And while these are some of my favorite tracks on The Silver Gymnasium, there isn’t a bad song in the bunch.  And it was during the previously mentioned third listen that I realized it.

I love when a band shows up on my radar and then seems to get a little better with each release.  Even more, I love when that pays off with something as fully realized at The Silver Gymnasium.


~ by themattmorrisshow on October 24, 2013.

One Response to “Okkervil River’s The Silver Gymnasium – an album review”

  1. […] 9.  Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium   Each Okkervil River album has had some magnificent high points, but The Silver Gymnasium is the first for me that sounded cut-for-cut great.  There is not a single out in this lineup, with lots of extra-base hits (okay, baseball metaphor over).  This is rock and soul in a Van Morrison kind of way, but also reminds me of The Hold Steady.  I wrote more about the album here. […]

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