Can Will Sheff even write a bad song? As main man behind Okkervil River, Mr. Sheff has been cooking up great music for years now, a swing & sway that’s both catchy and meaningful. And, despite the band leaving longtime indie imprint Jagjaguwar, it continues with the latest strong Okkervil record, The Silver Gymnasium.
Right from the get-go with “It Was My Season”, one knows that this is an Okkervil River record, Sheff leading the band is his wry way, uproarious without being ungainly. “Season”, “On a Balcony”, and especially single “Down Down the Deep River” start The Silver Gymnasium off strong, with everything that is great about Okkervil River. The group knows how to celebrate without feeling forced – or watered down, as all are skilled musicians. There’s also some pedal steel loss that’s got sweetness (the following “Pink-slips”, closer “Black Nemo”), good pleading (“Where the Spirit Left Us”), and even horns (“Stay Young” makes one think of the neo-Billy Joel that is Spoon’s awesome “The Underdog” – QRO video). Brighter than the prior I Am Very Far (QRO review), even when Sheff gets down, he goes up in the end, like the sad, carrying “Lido Pier Suicide Car”, which bursts into raucous uplift at the end.
Even when Okkervil River is just decent, they’re still more enjoyable than most (“White”, “All the Time Every Day”). And while they’ve never become the biggest band in the world, they have slowly moved up and up, gaining more & more fans along the way. Things are always on the upswing for Will Sheff & Okkervil River.