The Stage Names
Label - Jagjaguwar
Okkervil River have been building a name for themselves in the rootsy-Americana genre, through quiet, introspective, rustic records. They achieved something of a breakthrough with 2005's Black Sheep Boy, with its Great Lake Swimmers sound and somewhat whiney vocals. However, that success afforded the band the room to stretch a little, and The Stage Names is, ironically, more straightforward and rocking than the previous albums (that's if you regard Arcade Fire as straightforward and rocking). It takes a theme - a concept record about making a concept record - but unless you're the kind to listen deeply to an album in one sitting, that'll be less important than the fact that the band do make a great, and rather addictive noise. The band is a 7 piece, playing Will Sheff's songs (which may explain why they let him sing - this album would gain 2 marks just by using a more capable singer), in front of an 8-piece string section (occasionally). Despite that voice, or maybe because of it, Okkervil River burrow like a little worm into the part of your brain that makes you pull CDs off the shelf again and again.