Three years ago, Okkervil River were traveling down Will Sheff’s memory lane with their last album ‘The Golden Gymnasium’. It’s only now we know that the songwriter was entering a particularly challenging period of transition. Back in 2013 he felt disillusioned with the music industry, the existing band went their separate ways and, his grandfather, his “hero”, passed away. In his words, he said he “didn’t know where I belonged”. The Brooklyn-via-Austin outfit had all but come to an end.

But, like a phoenix, Sheff arose from the ashes, to channel all his malaise and disenchantment into a new album. It proved, as if necessary, that the project had evolved in a personal moniker rather than still being an actual band’s name. Okkervil River are dead, long live Okkervil River! The announcement comes directly from them with the first single from ‘Away’, a warm obituary titled ‘Okkervil River R.I.P.’ – a confessional track telling the bitter personal story of the singer/songwriter during those quiet years of absence.

Though presented as a clean slate, the record’s nine tracks are a great musical compendium of everything Okkervil River have been in their career. The opening track recalls the majestic ballads of the ‘Black Sheep Boy’-era, and ‘Comes Indiana Through the Smoke’ is reminiscent of the soft touch of ‘Savannah Smile’ from ‘The Stage Names’. ‘Frontman in Heaven’ sounds like an outtake from ‘Down the River of Golden Dream’, and ‘The Industry’ is a dive in the 80s sound that has been fascinating Sheff in his most recent production.

It’s only with ‘Days Spent Floating’ that a new, mature sound is uncovered. A song made of a fingerpicked guitar and a mellow electric piano. It’s the perfect way to end an album that might have never been, but luckily is now here to stay.


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