Music News

Okkervil River's Silver Gymnasium Makes One Hell of a Case for Nostalgia

Page 2 of 2

If that wasn't enough, they've also opted to release the album on cassette, and have even supplied a hokey, fun, surprisingly profound 8-bit videogame where you can "play" the album. Oh, and then there's the Youtube video with all sorts of pictures of a young Sheff in Meriden with his family, scanned over à la Ken Burns.

None of this might matter so much if the album weren't so beautifully, hauntingly good.

There's a pep in these songs that might be surprising to those listeners accustomed to the understated and crushing Down the River of Golden Dreams, or the dark bombast of 2005's Black Sheep Boy. But like Springsteen at his E Street best, the pep works here, undergirding the sorrow of the songs with a buoyant, lilting joy. These songs are childhood memories you can dance to.

Though they haven't been released as a standalone book, as he's done in the past, Sheff's lyrics, as always, demand a special attention. In the hands of a lesser writer, the Atari reference in the album opener "It Was My Season" (almost certainly intended to be critic fodder, it seems) would be some cheap, kitschy punch line; here, though, it's a legitimate period detail, somehow fresh despite its ubiquity as an "ironic" t-shirt, more or less necessary in the song.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Derek Askey
Contact: Derek Askey