The Stand Ins

Cut Will Sheff and he bleeds words: big, lofty, expository words—and more than enough of them in the case of the 2007 recording sessions with his Austin band Okkervil River , which resulted in an extra album of songs. The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar) is billed as a sequel to 2007’s The Stage Names , and in some respects this is accurate: The releases share a similar sound—full, thrilling, emotionally bare—and even the artwork builds on itself. Yet while the material for Stage Names had an uncharacteristic lightness of being, Stand Ins is made of darker stuff; there’s nothing here quite as funny as “Plus Ones” or as exuberant as “Unless It’s Kicks.” Sheff, sounding like a wounded animal, turns a kiss-off in “Singer Songwriter” into a painful, stinging betrayal, while in “Pop Lie” he blasts the disingenuous allure of … someone? Something? He’s not telling. And only Sheff could transform a simple tale of keeping a band together—“Lost Coastlines,” an apt duet with recently departed bandmate (and Shearwater front man) Jonathan Meiburg—into an epic send-off to sea. “We have lost our way,” they confess, “but no one will say it outright.”

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