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Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff has never shied away from dipping his pen into the seemingly bottomless inkwell of nostalgia that seems to permeate much of 21st century indie pop and rock, but on The Silver Gymnasium, the Lone Star State band's seventh long-player, Sheff goes all in with a celebration/exorcism of his hometown of Meridian, New Hampshire, crafting an 11- track, exhaustively detailed audio-biography that comes off like a more idiosyncratic, less overbearing version of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. Sheff, born in 1976, imbues much of the record with a patina of (tasteful ) '80s AOR excess (listeners have the option to go online and explore the town using an 8-bit point and click adventure game), especially on album highlights like the expansive and disarmingly tragic "Down Down the Deep River," the bubbly ska and new wave-infused "Stay Young," and the hypnotic "Walking Without Frankie," the latter of which sounds like a dark, alternate universe rendering of J. Geils Band's "Freeze Frame." It's not all Trans-Am's and Pac Man though, as evidenced by the whimsical, Hunky Dory-era Bowie-colored opener "It Was My Season" and the twang-kissed, fist-pumping "White." That the band uses these time-worn textures without irony suggests a real reverence and understanding of the time period, which helps the material feel more like an emotionally charged high five than just a highly impressionistic show and tell, and Sheff's willingness to strike a balance between his roots rock past and his personal past should please longtime fans and newbies alike, even if they spend the majority of the ride wondering why the tour bus never actually stops at the Silver Gymnasium.
Performance CreditsOkkervil River Primary Artist
Brian Cassidy Electric Guitar
Will Sheff Acoustic Guitar,Harmonica,Electric Guitar,Vocals,ARP,Group Member
Jonathan Meiburg Banjo,Vocal Harmony
Chris Mills Vocal Harmony
Zachary Thomas Mandolin
Matt LeMay Vocal Harmony
Patrick Pestorius Bass,Vocal Harmony,Group Member
Cully Symington Percussion,Drums
Ben Kalb Cello
Michael St. Clair Synthesizer,Percussion,Trombone,Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Electric Guitar,Group Member,Hammond B3
Justin Sherburn Piano,Electric Guitar,Harmonium,Harpsichord,Moog Synthesizer,fender rhodes,Wurlitzer,Optigan,Group Member,Hammond B3
Brian Donohoe Saxophone
David Boyle Hand Clapping
Lauren Gurgiolo Electric Guitar,Lap Steel Guitar,Group Member
Clinton Newman Electric Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Technical CreditsJohn Agnello Producer,Engineer
Phil Palazzolo Engineer
John Congleton Engineer
Will Sheff Composer,Engineer
William Schaff Artwork,Images
Daniel Murphy Images,Layout
Justin Sherburn Sequential Circuits
Matt Hubbard Engineer
David Boyle Engineer
Marion V. Cuthbert Contributor
Hillary Sundell Contributor