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Stage Names

21 customer reviews

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The Stage Names
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Audio CD, August 7, 2007
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Product Description

This record dynamites the moss-covered castle walls of 2005's "Black Sheep Boy" to let in the glaring sun. Riddled with characters real and fake, with the relics of high culture and the crumpled up trash of low culture, "The Stage Names" is a cinemascopic take on the meaning of entertainment in the modern world. Reverberant with echoes of Motown snap and girl group pop, redolent with ripe whiffs of dirty rock 'n' roll, shining with the shimmy of Bo Diddley, with the shimmer of the Velvets, with the swagger of the Faces, and with a glittery sprinkling of cheap perfume to disguise the stink, "The Stage Names" is a relentlessly paced and ruthlessly thrilling journey.

On their debut album, Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See, Okkervil River invoked Otis Redding's "I’ve Got Dreams to Remember" in a late-album sweep of drama. Here they take the closer, "John Allyn Smith Sails," and spin languidly into verses from "Sloop John B," with tattered, ragged horns invoking Neutral Milk Hotel. Singer Will Sheff re-asserts his primacy as the best mid-range, lyric-wobbling howler as he pleads, "I feel so broke up, I wanna go home." But you don't have to wait until the ninth track to get the point: Okkervil River has grown yet again, weaving mandolin twang with pump organ wheeze as they name-check the Byrds, "99 Luftbaloons," and Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," all in the first two minutes of "Plus Ones," and then embracing sad-sack heartbreak amidst pedal steel on "A Girl in Port," a mere four tracks after the distortion-laden guitar riffage of "Unless It's Kicks." Hyper-literate, musically accomplished, and keenly aware of dramatic sweep, Okkervil River continues fulfilling the promise inherent not only in each of their prior albums but also in the enthused throes of passion marking Okkervil's colleagues, Arcade Fire and Decemberists and Bright Eyes. A brilliant work, The Stage Names. --Andrew Bartlett
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 7, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,108 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul D. Sandor on October 2, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I would like to thank the customer reviewers of Amazon and the pros over at Metacritic. Without them, I would have never discovered my new favorite band: Okkervil River. If you've ever experienced the thrill of loving a brilliant band that no one has ever heard of (Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decembrists etc.) then you'll feel it again with Will Sheff (singer,writer) and the boys. The album begins with three killer tunes, slows in good way thru its soft creamy center and finishes the listener off with three Knock-out songs at the end (which comes far too soon). Poignant lines like, "Oh, but wise men know when it's time to go, and I should too. And so I fly into the brightest sun of this frozen town" abound. Sheff is so good, I could've picked dozens of lines just as moving. O.R's music is unpredictable and original. They resemble everyone from The Kinks To Magnetic fields (via Wilco, yes Wilco!) but somehow sound fresh and new. If you want music that makes you think, feel and connect with this crazy world in an artful way, then make The Stage Names your next purchase. Absolutely essential for Indie Rock fans...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cale E. Reneau on August 7, 2007
Format: Audio CD
One of the great joys of being a music fan is being able to hear the progression of a band or artist. Many bands continually redefine their sounds. Some get progressively worse, others better. Okkervil River is a band that consistently improves. With each album that they put out, this great band from New Hampshire via Austin strengthens their sound and finds new ways to impress their audience. Like their previous releases, "The Stage Names" is influenced by several genres without fully committing to a single style. Sometimes folky, sometimes rocky, sometimes emo, sometimes poppy; Okkervil River is always worth listening too!

Will Sheff's emotionally wrought wails and painfully insightful lyrics begin the album off on "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe." The song is about how everyday life is nowhere as exciting (or contrived) as a major movie, yet the song itself is more exciting than most. You can almost imagine the band playing this song live, flailing their bodies about with all the energy that they can muster. "Unless It Kicks" keeps the energy from the opening track, but channels it into a more traditional rock sound. It continually builds throughout, before finally climaxing at around 3:35 with the band rocking out as hard as they ever do!

Though the music itself is brilliant throughout "The Stage Names," it is Will Sheff's songwriting skills that have impressed me most about the album. Every song gives the impression that Sheff spent hours slaving over each song, writing intricate stories and reflections. Take, for example, the clever, yet brilliant, "Plus Ones" in which Sheff weaves the titles of songs with numbers into the lyrics (adding 1 to the original).
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 8, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Some bands recycle their sound from album to album, until they implode into a creative vacuum.

And some bands refine, rework and polish their talent, turning out increasingly brilliant, full-blown music. Fortunately Okkervil River fits into the second category, amping up the sound of their previous opus "Black Sheep Boy" and giving it a rollicking, lovable rock sound... without losing the freakfolk/alt-country edge.

It opens with a tight little riff, and Will Sheff moaning, "It's just a bad movie, where there's no crying... It's just a life story, so there's no climax/No more new territory, so pull away the IMAX." It unfolds into a blazing, thumping, piano-riddled rock song that sweeps the listener in its wake, just before letting you drop into quiet interludes.

So what's it about? Basically, about a person who sees their life as a movie, but is being told that it isn't all about them: "No fade in: film begins on a kid in the big city/And no cut to a costly parade -- that's for him only!/No dissolve to a sliver of grey -- that's his new lady!".

It's a strong start, and it's a good springboard to what comes next: sizzling rockers, bouncy indiepop flavoured with horns, plinky piano and "doo-doo!" vocals, smooth twinkling ballads, and rollicking alt-country. It doesn't sound that cohesive, but the songs do mesh well -- they all have a wistful, expansive quality that seems to spill over their edges.

Lots of people encountered Okkervil River by their 2005 album "Black Sheep Boy," but "The Stage Names" just evolves and expands the same kind of music. It's a bit less angular, a little more introspective, and a lot catchier -- it hasn't gotten any less poignant, but the melodies are rollicking fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scott Yanoff on May 14, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I know that these guys were one of the indie darlings in 2007 but I didn't get into this album until 2008. However, I am glad that I did. The album is a great mix of songs of varying tempos, and the 9 songs on it feel like just the right amount.

The first two songs are really great up-tempo numbers, with the second song, Unless Its Kicks, the real highlight of the album. The lyrics are fantastic, with each song telling a unique story and repetitive lyrics and choruses typically avoided. The writing is very clever this way as it really sounds more like stories rather than the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus routine.

The slower songs are great as well. Savannah Smiles is a song about reading his daughter's diary and lamenting the innocence lost with youth. It seems like a wise-beyond-one's-years type of song as I'm assuming that the author isn't actually old enough to have the teenage (or older) daughter he describes in the song.

Plus Ones is a clever song that took me a few listens to realize what was going on. They've cleverly woven songs from the 70s onward into this song's lyrics. Essentially, songs such as 99 Luftballoons, 7 Chinese Brothers, 50 Ways to Leave your Lover, and others, get the "plus one" treatment. Very clever the way it was turned into a story.

Title Track is the only dud as I see it on the album. There are a couple of minor drawbacks. While I'm not concerned about foul language, there were just a couple of instances throughout the album that prevent me from playing it when the kids are around, which is a shame because there's so much to get out of the album otherwise. When they're just a little bit older and I don't care what they hear I'll certainly play it around them, then.

The album ends with John Allyn Smith Sails which re-works the Beach Boys' Sloop John B in a very energetic way and makes for a great ending to a great album.
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