Friday, December 12, 2008

The Best Records of 2008 - Okkervil River's "The Stand Ins"

Even if Okkervil River's "The Stand Ins" doesn't find it's way to the top of my best records list, it will stand firmly as the single most underrated record released in 2008.

"The Stand Ins" while brilliant, is coming on the heels of its companion piece, last years "The Stage Names" which happened to be my favorite record of 2007. Most fans of "The Stage Names" are still listening to "The Stage Names" seeing as how it's beautiful and all and I think some weren't ready for part two just yet.

Well get yourselves ready because "The Stand Ins" is almost as beautiful as its predecessor. Listened back to back, it truly feels like the greatest double album ever recorded - which is what it was intended to be. There's no filler. Not one even mediocre song between the two records and I'll say this - the only thing that gives "The Stage Names" the edge is that there is one more proper song than "The Stand Ins"

"The Stand Ins" is a bit more upbeat which, depending on your taste, can either add or subtract points I'd assume. It's emotionally complex, obviously and Will Sheff's songs play out like the greatest short stories, as usual. It's safe to say that Sheff is among the top three songwriters working right now.

In a lot of ways, Okkervil River are the anti-Hold Steady, which makes it odd that they are my two favorite modern bands. While The Hold Steady stress inclusion, Okkervil River tend to keep their fans at arms length. This actually works and is what makes their records so essential. You'll pick through each phrase uttered by Will Sheff and that's the point. I find Okkervil River to be very accessible, but they're the kind of band that while you can enjoy their songs the first time around, more will be revealed through repeated listens. Like Arrested Development. The show. Not the hip-hop group with Baba O Jay.

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