Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ultimate Album of the Year

So the last post was the "top 10" of the year. Today I reveal... the ULTIMATE album of the year. That's right, you thought I was done, but I'm not. That last list was just the countdown to the very very best, which I kept in secret to surprise you. So... the ultimate... the very best... the golden nugget... of the year.... is:

Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation

This album has something for everyone to love. At times wild and eclectic, at other times melodic and beautiful, always surprising, and never disappointing, this album is the peak of what great indie rock has become. It moves from noisy art rock to country western from time change to time change multiple times within one song. This album truly is an amazing feat. Every song on the album is a winner. Influences heard on the album range from early Pavement to fellow indie rockers Tapes 'n Tapes to Wilco to science fiction television shows and rocky scenic views. This album has everything I want, and everything that I love. If you don't own, (and I'm dead serious) go pick it up NOW.

10 Top Albums of 2007

It's reaching about the end of the year, and even though I'm sure there are some fantastic albums to come out by the end of December, I am doing a top 10 countdown of my favorite albums from the past year. Keep in mind, I haven't heard every album that I should have, but these are the albums which I have heard, and which I have loved. Right now it's late, I just finished putting together my final portfolio for English, and got my design project done this morning, so I'm tired. In other words, I'm not going to write a small clip for each album, just show them, and you'll know... you'll know how you love them. HERE WE GO!

10. Okkervil River - The Stage Names


9. Feist - The Reminder


8. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

(Sub Pop)

7. !!! - Myth Takes


6. Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends


5. Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings


4. We All Have Hooks for Hands - The Pretender


3. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible


2. Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position


1. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?


And of course, these weren't the only albums I enjoyed all year. I made some other hard decisions as to who should go on the list, so these are the Honorable Mentions:

The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder

The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover

The Go! Team - Proof of Youth

And there you have it. Those are my favorite albums from this year, and also a few that just didn't quite make the list, though rest assured, are still excellent. Check them out if you have the time, I promise, they're well worth it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 7)

Here’s this week’s rundown of songs I can’t stop listening to:

Violent Femmes – Gone Daddy Gone

From their first album, the Violent Femmes combine everything they’re great at into one song. In this song they have their furious high school angst (which, if you’re listening to emo can get incredibly annoying, but the Violent Femmes always keep it raw and actually angry, not whiny), not to mention driving bass/drums, and lo-fi acoustic guitar played punk. They even throw in what sounds like a marimba. I love most Violent Femmes song, but this one sticks out in my mind.

Beirut – Scenic World

From the Lon Gisland EP (not the version off of The Gulag Orkestar), the song opens with a beautiful accordion piece, and soon breaks in with hand drums and strings. Zach Condon’s voice breaks in with its deep swoon, “The lights go on/the lights go off/When things don’t feel right.” The song is absolutely beautiful, and makes me think of walking through falling snow from class to class, a cigarette in my mouth.

Destroyer – The Bad Arts

From the album Streethawk: A Seduction, Destroyer’s The Bad Arts is typical Dan Bejar, which is not to say it is average. Destroyer, with each album I listen to, has the ability to craft some of the most beautiful, clever music I’ve ever listened to. Opening with a solo acoustic piece and the sound of Bejar’s voice, his lyrics are, as always, genius. “God damn your eyes/They just had to be twin prizes waiting for the sun.” After the first bit, though, the song backs into a blues bass line and drums while Bejar sings bitterly. The song builds just little by little until the end when the music breaks, and a small chorus sings, “You’ve got the spirit/Don’t lose the feeling.

And those are this week’s tracks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Pretender

Alright, I’m finally doing it. I’m reviewing the We All Have Hooks for Hands album. It seems a little nerdy, (because so many of them attend the same school as me, and I see them fairly frequently) but I’m doing it anyway.

Their first (and only) album is out on Afternoon Records, and you can usually catch them playing at least once a month in the Sioux Falls area. I first got The Pretender (or at least most of it) last May, and it literally has not left my CD player for more than a day since then. It is an incredibly addicting album. The songs are incredibly catchy, filled with “Oh’s” and “Whoa-oh’s” galore, not to mention witty lyrics and memorable music. There are nine members in the band on this album, including three guitarists, a bass player, two drummers, two keyboard/trumpet players, and a violinist. Most of the songs center around partying in small towns, something which (at least for me) is very relatable.

Standouts of the album are “Oh, I’d Expect” (Well I’m sure you’ll reminisce/about the timing of this/You always thought apologies were for frauds), “On & On” (Mistitled “Ghosts and Strangers) (We go on and on about being alone/We go on and on about being alone), and “The Man Trying to Outfox Us All” (You held your ties with drugs and lies/You missed a note with all your wives/And life’s a joke with no punchline/But you’re alright, yeah you’re alright).

It is a perfect album to turn the volume all the way up in your car and just belt out the lyrics with, and one that I really can’t stop listening to. I give it, yeah, that’s right, a 10.0.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 6)

First of all, the Mountain Goats concert was amazing. John Darnielle is a brilliant performer, and one can tell how much he enjoys playing for audiences. If you ever get the chance to catch them live, I’d highly recommend it. Now, for the songs I can’t stop listening to.

Maritime – Tearing Up the Oxygen

Maritime is a band formed by remnants of The Promise Ring (Davey von Bohlen) and The Dismemberment Plan (Eric Axelson). Now, God knows I have nothing but good words for The Dismemberment Plan, with their albums Emergency and I and Change being tied for my number two albums of all time (second only to Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea), but I am also an avid fan of The Promise Ring. Now, now, you might say, they’re nothing but a washed-up emo band. Let me be the first to tell you, I hate emo music. Absolutely despise it, but these so-called “inventors of emo” sound nothing of the sort. Anyway, I digress. Tearing Up the Oxygen comes from the band’s sophomore (and superior) album We, the Vehicles. The song retains that old Promise Ring feel, but takes the harmonies further, and creates an addicting post-pop number. For some reason, the song feels perfect in the month of October (although that has passed) reminding me of lying in a giant pile of leaves, but I think that’s just von Bohlen’s voice. I’d recommend the entire album, but at least this song.

Rogue Wave – Love’s Lost Guarantee

I don’t know much about the band Rogue Wave, but I know that this song is immediately likable. I first heard the song on the trailer for the new film Wristcutters: A Love Story (which, I think, looks hilarious, and I can’t wait to see it), and after I did some research to find out what the song was, obtained the album immediately. When the song began, I wasn’t sure if I had done my research correctly, as it sounded like a very sad number, but was presently surprised by the end of it, when it builds into a giant celebration, filled with energy and shouting, and I couldn’t help but sing along with my first listen, without knowing the words.

And those are this week’s tracks, hope you enjoy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mountain Goats - The Highlights (In Preparation for the Upcoming Concert)

Since I will be attending the Mountain Goats concert in Omaha this Saturday, and since John Darnielle is my favorite lyricist, I thought I’d give a small rundown of my favorite songs of theirs:

Going to Georgia

Of course, this is an obvious one, hailing from their very first album, Zopilote Machine. It may be incredibly lo-fi, but it contains my favorite lyrics of all time, “The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway/is that it’s you/and that you’re standing in the doorway.” It is a simple statement, but remarkably beautiful in its simplicity. It is like what I’ve wanted to say so many times to so many people, I’m just happy that you’re here at all.

This Year

This is also an obvious choice. The first single from the cathartic album The Sunset Tree, it is a bleeding, joyous, explosion of childhood confession. It feels as if John Darnielle finally lets all of the things that happened during his childhood out in one terrifying gasp. Highlighted lyric: “I downshifted as I pulled into the driveway/The motor screaming out stuck in second gear/The scene ends badly as you might imagine/in a cavalcade of anger and fear/There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year/I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me.”

Attention All Pickpockets

This comes from the 3-song EP, Letter to Belgium. This song winds down to the old single-acoustic guitar and vocals motif. It is a touching driven song that with each chorus finds a multitude of voices singing. Highlighted lyric: “Black pumps/And a medium length black skirt/Eating a path through the dark, damp earth/I hope they’ve got plenty of money where you’re going.”

Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton

From their album, All Hail West Texas, this song tells the story of two teenagers trying to get a death metal band together to follow their favorite music acts. (Apparently John Darnielle is very influenced by death metal, although his music is usually acoustic-folk.) After they get their band together, they try to perform publicly, but the school tells them that because of their use of a pentagram (like a lot of death metal bands) they cannot continue to perform, therefore ruining their dreams. Highlighted lyric: “When you punish a person for dreaming his dream/Don’t expect him to thank or forgive you/The best ever death metal band out of Denton/Will in time both outpace and outlive you/Hail Satan!” (The last remark is obviously meant to be ironic… this band isn’t a cult.)

The Mess Inside

Also from All Hail West Texas, this song tells the story of a young couple who try to reignite their love by vacationing all over the world, but find that the world cannot solve their problems. It is close to one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and therefore I will post all of the lyrics from the song:

We took a weekend, drove to Provo/
the snow was white and fluffy/
but a weekend in Utah won't fix what's wrong with us/
the gray sky was vast and real cryptic above me/
I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
We took two weeks in the Bahamas/
went out dancing every night/
tried to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things/
most of the time I guess I felt alright/
but I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
But you cannot run/
and you cannot hide/
from the wreck we've made of our house/
and from the mess inside.
We went down to New Orleans/
one weekend in the spring/
looked hard for what we'd lost/
it was painful to admit it, but we couldn't find a thing/
I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
We went to New York City in September/
took the train out of Manhattan to the Grand Army Stop/
found that bench we'd sat together on a thousand years ago/
when I felt such love for you I thought my heart was gonna pop/
I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
But I cannot run/
and I can't hide/
from the wreck we've made of our house/
from the mess inside.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 5)

First of all, just want to put the word that there is a We All Have Hooks for Hands show at Nutty's North in Sioux Falls on Tuesday starting at 7 P.M. Be there. And now for the songs that I simply can’t stop listening to:

Ween – The Mollusk

Off of Ween’s nautical album (also titled The Mollusk), this may be one of the most addicting songs I’ve ever listened to. The song begins with a mix of acoustic picking and synthesized flute-like noises. A deep man’s voice enters, asking, “Hey, little boy/Whatcha got there?” And the boy answers, “Kind sir/It’s a Mollusk I found” The story then unfolds as to the magic of this mollusk, and the wonders of the ocean. Listening to the song, it does make one want to be near the ocean, or at least a large body of water. The best part of the song is, hands down, the trumpet solos, whether they’re synthesized or not. (Sometimes I think they are, other times I think it’s a real trumpet.) Either way, they kick major ass.

Band of Horses – Is There a Ghost

Band of Horses’ second album, Cease to Begin, isn’t as impressive as their first, but at least with the first song, it certainly makes a valiant attempt. Is There a Ghost opens with Ben Bridwell’s usual tenor glistening and dripping in reverb, and after the first few measures, the rest of the band drop the bomb, pulling in overtime with hard instrumentals. Regardless of how good the rest of the album is, Is There a Ghost was a step in a good direction, let’s hope they can keep trucking that way.

And those are this week’s tracks, hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Buffalo Kings/Welcome to the Cinema/We All Have Hooks for Hands at Nutty's North in Sioux Falls

So here’s the first of (probably) many times I’ll promote some local bands. Held at Nutty’s North in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, October 2nd, this was a fantastic show.

The first band to play was Buffalo Kings from Sioux Falls. I had never heard them before, but they put on a good show. Ranging from blues to folk to a little tinge of western, the band only consisted of two members: guitar/vocals, and drums. Still, they did not produce a small sound because of the small numbers. In fact, they were quite powerful and driving.

The second band to play was Welcome to the Cinema, from Brookings. (They are now located in Minneapolis.) The band was recently signed to Speakerphone Records out of Minneapolis, and two friends of mine play in the band. The five member band plays a sort of indie dance rock, and they always keep up a fast and fun show. Their music can be found at

The third band to take the stage was Vermillion/Sioux Falls locals We All Have Hooks for Hands. They are on Afternoon Records (also based in Minneapolis). They play folk/pop and are always enthusiastic on stage. There are nine members in the band (though there were only eight playing that night because the violinist couldn’t make it) including three guitars, a bass, two drummers, and two keyboard/trumpet players. They have one album out (which I highly recommend) that is available on,, and Ernie November in Sioux Falls. Some of their music can also be found at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 4)

Here’s this week’s rundown of songs that I can’t stop listening to:

Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks

Peter Bjorn and John have been around since 1999, and have released three albums. On their latest album, Writer’s Block, (which is about a perfect pop album) they have the song “Young Folks.” The song broke the top 40 in the UK, and for good reason. The song begins with infectious drums that go into a whistling lead and following bass. The song relates the same old story of falling in love, but for people in between being young and hip or old and senile. This is a song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.

Orba Squara – My Favorite Song

You may have heard Orba Squara on recent iPhone commercials (and you can hear it on the recent short, “iPhoolish” at, with the song, “Perfect Timing (This Morning).” This is an excellent song, but I think an even stronger one is “My Favorite Song.” The song glistens with bells over an acoustic guitar, and the vocals are unique: high, but not yelpy, they fit the song perfectly. They are slightly reminiscent of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips.

Also, because I am an attention whore, I am going to put a plug in for my own music here. If you’d like a listen, just go to It’s admittedly not that great, but if you’d like a listen I’d encourage it. My new band here in Vermillion, Head 80 Foot Big, will also being playing one of the songs (60’s Doll) as soon as we can get a show put together.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 3)

Here’s this week’s rundown of songs that I can’t stop listening to:

Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You

Black Kids are a very new band on the rise. They have only released on EP (which is available for free download on their MySpace page), but it is an outstanding accomplishment. The standout of the EP is I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You, an upbeat dance number (duh). The song swings with fuzzy guitar, and bouncy bass, and laced with synth. The chorus finds both the boys and the girls singing an infectious countdown. This is definitely a band to expect good things from.

Of Montreal – Du Og Meg

From Icons, Abstract Thee, the companion EP to January’s Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?, Du Og Meg is Of Montreal showcasing their danciest, best qualities. Following a love story that spans across oceans and kingdoms, it is complete with insatiable horns and hopping bass. Kevin Barnes certainly knows how to turn a phrase, and his voice fits perfectly with fragments like, “Still his heart was so ambivalent and hopesick of her/ He wasn’t ever sure/But she gave in so sweetly/That the spirit said/Boy you better go run to her”.

Tarkio – Caroline Avenue

Before Colin Meloy had formed The Decemberists, he was the leader of Tarkio. Caroline Avenue sings sweetly with its perfect blend of the guitar, banjo, drums, and violin. Meloy’s voice croons about growing sick of a former lover. The song is filled with glorious pictures such as, “Reeling from the tension/It’s all ending here/And I’m chasing shots of whiskey with Everclear” and “And you’re trying so hard/But it takes more than just flipping of the traffic cops/To impress me/You underestimate me.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Shepherd's Dog

Iron & Wine are no strangers in the indie scene by now. They have now released three full albums, have been featured in films (i.e. Garden State), commercials (M&M’s), and are known by everyone who’s anyone. When Sam Beam announced he was releasing another album under the Iron & Wine moniker, one could have expected much of the same: lo-fi, sweet, acoustic songs that tug at the heart and are perfect material for a girlfriend’s mixtape. One would have expected wrong.

The Shepherd’s Dog is a sprawling, hi-fi, epic of an album. It is everything you didn’t expect from Iron & Wine, but subtly, everything that makes them wonderful musicians. On the first song, Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car, it opens with the same old Sam Beam charm, the lo-fi guitar, but quickly thereafter delves into hand drums with hand claps, ringing a southern guitar with drops of blues harmonica and sprinkled with piano. Another stand-out of the album is the first single, Boy with a Coin, which also opens with handclaps and hand drums (if you can’t tell, just put handclaps in a song and I’ll think it’s the shit). As always, Beam’s lyrics tell stories of southern legends, of animals, of warm days and warmer nights.

Even if The Shepherd’s Dog doesn’t sound like Iron & Wine’s previous albums, it’s still Sam Beam through and through, and he definitely has not lost any of his touch. If he continues in this direction, he should stay an indie king for a long, long while. I give this album an 8.5.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Actual Rating

I forgot to give the actualy rating of Let's Stay Friends. It's 9.2. Yes, I'm a sucker for post-punk art rock.

Let's Stay Friends

As the name of the album implies, the future of Les Savy Fav was unclear for a period of time. This is their first album since 2004’s Inches, which showed Les Savy Fav at the peak of their genius. After Inches, though, the band went on hiatus without a clear direction if there was ever to be another sound from the New York City art rockers. Earlier in 2007, however, without warning, Les Savy Fav started a massive tour across North America, seemingly uplifting the hiatus. Quickly after the start of the tour, the band announced that, indeed, there was to be another album.

By the second song of Let’s Stay Friends, you know that the band has not lost their touch. Moreover, it may be the best record the band has ever recorded. Throughout the entire album, the band blends their art rock perfectly with blossoming guitar and bass hooks. Lead singer Tim Harrington can’t seem to decide whether to keep shouting his cryptic lyrics, or to lean back on his falsetto swoons, but always seems to make the right choice, hitting the loud hits of the song with an even louder voice, and caressing the guitar hooks with light croons.

Harrington’s lyrics switch between oddly poetic and sexual, (Pattie Lee sloughed her skin and showed what was within/It’s hard to describe/She moved like smoke and sounded like ice) and tongue-in-cheek humor (Being the king was pretty cool/I’d have to say that ruling ruled).

With this album, Les Savy Fav prove that they are far from over, and are still one of the greatest visionaries in indie rock.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Sampler- Tracks of the Week (Week 2)

Here’s this week’s sampler of songs I can’t stop listening to. This week they’re coming from all eras, both old and new.

Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky

First released in 1977, off of the album Out of the Blue, Mr. Blue Sky still remains incredibly influential and one of the most brilliant pop rock songs of all time. The song opens the way every great happy go lucky song should, with a pounding piano, hard snare hits, and hand claps. Switching in mid-song between high seventies rock voices, and low, nearly comical bass swells, the band swells in and out of the song with a childish glee. Even though it’s turning to autumn, you can still listen to this song and be enveloped in a summer haze.

September Collective – Out of Intention

The September Collective’s new (and only) album just came out in July of 2007. The first track off of All the Birds Were Anarchists is smooth and velvety, something that can take your mind off of anything. The entire album is ambient music, made by three friends from Germany, using only synthesizers and computers, and just a tiny bit of guitars and drums. Listening to the first song (and indeed the entire album) brings night to the mind. Listening to it, one can’t help but picture streetlamps and flower pedals curling in on themselves. The album is hard to get (seeing as you can only buy it as an import from but if you have an eMusic account, it is available for download there. I’d highly recommend it.

So far, those are the only two songs that have been in my head all week, but keep track of the samplers, because compiled together, they’d make one hell of a mixtape.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The National at the Slowdown in Omaha, NE

The National have always been a hard band to describe to people. They do not sound like the typical indie rock band. Somehow they maintain a tone of elegance, and a real tactfulness for their craft of songwriting. Gracing between complicated drums and gliding pianos, excited guitar and jumpy violins, they are a very distinct band. Lead singer, Matt Berninger, sings with a very deep baritone voice, and his lyrics are often alienating but brilliant.

Whenever listening to a National album, one feels a surging pulse beneath the more obvious musical tones, a strange energy that pushes what seems like should be slow, ballad numbers. This push/pull between songs creates an addicting giddiness, but live, the giddiness is overwhelming, with the underlying energy in each song being brought directly to the surface, and creating a seething angst that is impossible to stand still to.

Stand-outs of the set included Fake Empire (from Boxer), Abel (from Alligator), and Squalor Victoria (once again from Boxer). Berninger puts such emotion into his live performances that he ended up crying after more than one song. Switching between the microphone and a bottle of wine and a bottle of scotch, he became increasingly deeper and deeper enamored with each song.

Opening for The National was St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, who was also wonderful. For each song she played, she would start out by playing a beat on an electronic pad, which included samples of her own voice and then record it live and loop it back. Building upon each loop she recorded, she would construct an entire pop symphony by herself. The entire show was incredibly satisfying and energetic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Sampler- Tracks of the Week (Week 1)

Here is this week’s rundown of songs that I have discovered that are excellent:

Les Savy Fav- Patty Lee

Les Savy Fav have always been visionaries, reinventing themselves and the indie dance/punk/rock genre with each album they realease, but they have outdone themselves this time. This is from their new album, Let’s Stay Friends, and bears listen after listen. The song starts out with the group’s usual frenetic guitar and drums, and lead singer Tim Harrington comes in with a high falsetto croon, and hits the chorus in his usual scratchy yell. Les Savy Fav incorporate the disco bass they were inching towards on their last album, Go Forth, but perfect it on this song.

Shout Out Louds- Tonight I Have to Leave It

The first track from the Shout Out Louds’ latest album, Our Ill Wills, is quite possibly the best track on this or their previous record. Produced by Bjorn of Peter Bjorn and John, the song is much more dance-oriented than anything from their previous album, and incorporates guitar, strings, bells, and pianos. The song tells the story of gaining true love only by leaving it. Adam Olenius gives his usual emo yelp fitted into an indie sound, but it sounds much more applicable in the new sound setting that they acquired.

Blitzen Trapper- Devil’s A-Go-Go

The opener from Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper’s latest album, is a fuzzy, spasmodic, dirty, eclectic, and undeniably addicting track. The group play with such an energy that one feels compelled to forget who’s watching and break out the old air guitar. Littered with hoots and cat-calls from the band, Devil’s A-Go-Go is reminiscent of early Pavement, lacking direction and not giving a f*** who knows it. This band is shaping out to be promising, and so far has my vote for best album of the year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Besnard Lakes at the Showdown in Omaha, NE

I had never listened to a Besnard Lakes album, but had only read about the band. Yet when I saw they were playing in Omaha, I felt I had but no choice to see them. So I called up a friend of mine, and we drove down to Nebraska to see the band. They were playing at The Slowdown, and there was a cover charge of ten dollars. Both the gas money and the cover charge were completely worth it.

Both of us were blown away by the music of the Besnard Lakes. They are an indie rock group from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The group was formed by husband and wife Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, and currently has six members. Even though there were not many people at the show, the band retained a funny and happy persona, joking in between songs and interacting with the audience.

Most of the Besnard Lakes’ songs start with a low, soft pace and build until the songs reach an ear defeaning climax, with all of the band members shouting at the top of their lungs. I found something to love within each song, and the band did not lose my attention throughout the entire performance.

Opening for the Besnard Lakes was Baby Walrus, a three piece that consisted of piano/synthesizer, guitar, and drums. The band was a good opener, with many lush melodies and upbeat dance numbers. Following them, there was also Starving Hungry, a four-piece punk band that was also very good. All in all, it was a terrific show.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Stage Names

My most recent music purchase was “The Stage Names” by Okkervil River. I had never heard the band before, but made the purchase based on a review I read on Pitchfork Media. If you’ve never listened to the band, you need to pick up this album immediately. In the first song, Our Lives are Not a Movie or Maybe, the band screeches through a chorus of “Ooh, ooh’s” with a perfect resonance for pop music. The songs are energetic and well-crafted, as well as incredibly addicting. The band goes on to play two more songs, each perfect mixes of rock and pop sensibility. On the slightly off-kilter Unless It’s Kicks, the band repeats the verse, with each verse getting more steadily raucous, until the burgeoning last stretch, when the entire band loses itself to the emotion of the song, reaching a sort of blitzenkrieg shout/sing and letting the instruments do the talking.

Okkervil River plays art house indie, but never stretches the limits, making it radio-ready, but very intelligent at the same time. The lead singer, Will Sheff, maintains a beautiful baritone voice, and enjoys stretching it as high as possible on many tracks. The more he stretches his voice, the more the band builds until it hits a chorus, and you know it’s your turn to sing along. “The Stage Names” is an album that bears many repeats, and with each listen, one is able to find another golden nuance, earning itself an 8.7 out of 10 from me.