Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Song of the Week 9/5/08

Okkervil River - "Lost Coastlines"

It's not often I'll use the Song of the Week to plug an album, but the The Stand Ins by Okkervil River is worth making an exception. It's the third brilliant disc in a row (after 2005's Black Sheep Boy and 2007's The Stage Names) from frontman Will Sheff and company. It's a continuation of the themes Sheff explored on The Stage Names -- namely the life of a performer, either as a movie star or a rock star. (Or, as one caustic track on The Stand Ins explores, a "Singer Songwriter.") Sheff is by far the best lyricist in rock today (might have been that schooling at Macalester in St. Paul, I'm not sure). Each song is a compelling, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, yet always tautly constructed short story. "Lost Coastlines" is ostensibly about a crew departing on a ship, yet it's a great metaphor for a band leaving on what looks to be a hard slog of a tour. ("Leaving behind/All the faces that I might replace if I tried/on that long ride/Looking deep inside/but I don't want to look so deep inside yet.") And recently departed keyboardist-vocalist Jonathan Meiburg makes a great counterpoint to Sheff's distinctive off-kilt delivery with a smooth baritone that takes two verses. A fantastic lead off song from one of the (if not the) best albums of the year. I suggest you pick it up now. I can't wait to see them in their hometown of Austin in three weeks.

BONUS: Okkervil River got their friends to "stand in" on The Stand Ins by covering all the album's songs. They filmed each friend's performance and posted them on their YouTube channel. And damn, it's a totally great idea. This take on "Lost Coastlines" find The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman taking Sheff's vocal while Sheff himself slides right into Meiburg's part:

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