Easily one of the most impressive albums to be released in the year of 2007. Where 2005's Black Sheep Boy was on the verge of finding the band some success, it wasn't until The Stage Names where Okkervil River would establish their name. Looking around the community this album has barely a bad review, and it isn't without reason.
Will Sheff does everything right here, straight off the blocks he delivers us the song of the year in "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" his voice employs a deepness, drenched in heartbreaking emotion supported by an optimistic soundtrack of effective acoustic guitar muting and heavy chord hitting, with piano, playing an integral part to the songs structure. It's been awhile since a song of this calibre evoked so much. You really seem to feel what he's feeling even if you know or know not what that is.
Continuing in the upbeat, rollicking fashion comes "Unless it Kicks", "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene" and "You Can't Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man" all smooth rock and rollers but not in guitar heavy sense, they all bop along favourably with so much style and flair. As fun as these tracks are it's in the ballads that The Stage Names really comes alive. Never have i witnessed so much emotion bombarded onto one record. "Savannah Smiles" conveys all that should be in a ballad, so much allure and charm sometimes becoming overwhelming, but that occurs in "A Girl in a Port" as soon as Sheff's voice climbs it's crippling, so much delicacy. After taking a deep breath we are handed a cover of the Beach Boys "Sloop John B" in the second part of "John Allyn Smith Sails", what a way to go out.
This album has no doubt won the band so many adoring fans and so it should have, if not the best album you'll hear this year it's one of them. It marks the arrival of yet another truly talented songwriter.
Even the artwork is great.