My favorite album of 2007 was The Stage Name by Okkervil River. Today is the release of their follow-up album, The Stand Ins. The Stand Ins was recorded at the same time as The Stage Names, similar to what the band did with their 2005 release Black Sheep Boy and subsequent Black Sheep Boy Appendix. Although I have not given The Stand Ins a thorough listen, it is very thematically similar to The Stage Names, but more down tempo. Okkervil River is one of my favorite bands, and I can't wait to spend much more time with this release.
The album art was done by William Schaff (not to be confused with Okkveril River's lead singer and songwriter, Will Sheff). Schaff is a multi-medium artist based out of Providence, Rhode Island. He has also done album artwork for Songs: Ohia, Kid Dakota, and others. These two pieces/album covers were hand embroidered (yes, that same material that your mother uses to makes Christmas decorations). I love the way The Stand Ins skeleton is reaching up through The Stage Names lake.
Leading up to the release of The Stand Ins, Okkveril River asked their rockstar friends to do covers of the tracks off of this album, and release them on YouTube. None of these covers have really knocked me out, but you can judge for yourself at the Okkervil River YouTube page.
The first single I have seen buzzing around the internets is "Lost Coastline," a duet between Sheff and former Okkervil River member Jonathan Meiburg, who since this recording has left Okkervil to focus full time on his band Shearwater. When I saw Okkervil River open for the New Pornographers last fall, bassist Patrick Pestorius performed backup vocals and quite frankly, he was terrible. I really missed Meiburg's vocals and rock piano. I wonder who will fill in when they do this track live?
Buy: The Stand Ins (2008)
One of my favorite tracks off of The Stage Names, Will Sheff takes the old West Indies folk song made famous by the Beach Boys with "Sloop John B" and turns it into poet John Berryman's suicide note. Brilliant.
John Allyn Smith Sails.mp3
Buy: The Stage Names (2007)