Okkervill River continues to impress, experiment

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September 23, 2008

4:56 PM

With an indie-folk sound as unique and expressive as the Russian river they’re named for, Okkervil River is a treasure often missed in the hustle and bustle of mid-September academia. Following up on last year’s “The Stage Names,” “The Stand Ins” is an album to be cherished for the fact that it reminds us all that music still holds a mystical sway in this world. Music is power, people. Remember that.

Lyrics such as, “And this girl’s eyes / Well they were roughly wretched open / I could see a starry stare up your thigh / You hid behind your hair, oh, but I saw you smiling,” don’t write themselves (“Starry Stairs”). They’re crafted, hewn from the living earth and orchestrated in tandem with the loving affection that only someone touched by fate can provide.

Starting with a deafeningly hushed tremolo of violins on the first of three musical interludes of the album, “The Stand Ins, One” stands as one of the best instrumental interludes of the year. Clean, simple but discordant to the point of being unsettling, this intro sets up in an unexpected fashion the upbeat-but-earnest “Lost Coastlines.”

“Blue Tulips” is a track that everyone should download. It’s a song of downtrodden, busted-up hopes — of a resentful protagonist, surrounded by swirling strings and a sonic climax of the words “For every single inch of me / I’m going to make you mean it.”

With a continuance of the themes prevalent in the last album — life, death, love, heartbreak and the slightest hope of tomorrow — “The Stand Ins” stands for the things that we, as fans, as listeners of the void, want most out of an album. Thankfully, this Travis County quartet is more than happy to oblige.

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