Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium [album review

by Woody on November 1, 2013


Will Sheff proves you can go home again with The Silver Gymnasium. After Sheff and company delved into a bigger sound with I Am Very Far, The Silver Gymnasium sees them reverting back to the sounds more consistent with their earlier albums. They also turned over the producing to John Agnello as opposed to handling that as well. All in all, its their finest album since The Stage Names and stands amongst their finer work.

After experimenting with the sound, Sheff gets back to doing what he does best – writing songs that drip with emotion. Its what makes Sheff one of the special vocalists of the last twenty years. The Silver Gymnasium was inspired by Sheff’s upbringing in Meridien, NH. With the subject being so personal, it was great to see Sheff getting back to basics. The challenge in revisiting your youth is that you could come off as a cheesy nostalgic hack.

I was born and raised on Long Island, leaving for Chicago 20 years ago. When I left, I don’t think I had many nice things to say about Long Island. And from what I’ve read about Sheff, he could have felt the same way leaving Meridien. Oddly, as I have grown older and had kids myself, my stance has softened. While I could never see myself moving back, my remembrance of Long Island is considerably brighter than it was when I left.

Back when the album was released, Sheff was on Twitter like a proud papa, highlighting his favorite part that each band member did on the album. It wasn’t boastful, it seemed to be a blend of relief and a great sense of achievement that he could delve into a subject like that this and do it so well. Okkervil will be at The Metro Saturday tonight with Matthew E. White. I’ll see you there.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Okkervil River is here.

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