Out of Austin comes the indie-folk six piece band, Okkervil River, with its newest release, The Silver Gymnasium. This album’s ingenuity is hidden, but front man and songwriter Will Sheff’s songs of small-town America are undeniably relatable.
Sheff’s vocals have always come across as harsh and wild. The band’s music, from a distance, has always sounded boring and lazy. But when you pull up a chair and slap on a pair of headphones, this album comes alive.
The music in The Silver Gymnasium is deceptively genius because of its escalatingly intricate instrumentation. A song will start off with a piano line you think you’ve heard a million times, but by the end of the song, it’s evolved into something that will be stuck in your head all day. “Down Down the Deep River” sounds like something taken straight off of Bruce Springsteen’s greatest hits, but the youthful lyrics and explosive ending cement it as the album’s high point.
The album is full of nostalgic lines from Sheff’s childhood in Meriden, N.H., a town with a population of 500 people. In “Stay Young,” Sheff laments, “All my friends are running to live on corners, hunters and the haters and the faders and the mourners,” harkening back to that heartbreaking time when life speeds up and you desperately search for a pause button.
Perhaps most surprising of all is how undeniably fun listening to The Silver Gymnasium is. Skirting the line between folk-rock and pop, the upbeat rhythms and subtle synth lines induce foot tapping, dancing and everything in between. A tinge of wistfulness reminds listeners of the band’s central message: No matter where you came from, be grateful you are where you are now, as Sheff and his critically-acclaimed band surely are.
Artist: Okkervil River
Album: The Silver Gymnasium
Label: ATO Records
Songs to download: “Stay Young,” “All the Time Every Day,” “White”