September 4, 2013

Test Spins: Okkervil River, The Silver Gymnasium

Print More

Okkervil River’s newest album, The Silver Gymnasium, has clear sentimental value to lead singer Will Sheff, who is a true artist in all senses of the world. From the song titles to the album artwork, this album explore lessons and depictions of Sheff’s upbringing in Meridian, N.H. in the mid ’80s. Although this new album is somewhat different from Okkervil River’s earlier work, it represents a maturation of the band, and has a new reflective spirit that only comes with age.

Single and first song on the album “It Was My Season” clearly sets the scene for the ’80s references that are littered throughout the album with lines like, “Below the Atari I could feel your heart just going.” Although The Silver Gymnasium lacks some of the new age techniques present in previous albums, it also lacks some of the past albums’ scratchiness. One of my favorite songs on the album, “Pink-Slips,” can only be described as a great example of what indie rock should be, catchy, alternative and just chill vibes.

Of course, one cannot discuss The Silver Gymnasium without discussing the album artwork, as it plays a crucial role to the music itself. In a time when the artistry of album cover art is becoming less apparent, William Schaff, who has previously done album artwork for Okkervil River, takes the cover of this record to a new level of cool, creating a map of Meridian based on Sheff’s personal account of his childhood. Additionally, the Okkervil River website now hosts an ’80s style first person video game where you can literally walk through Meridian as Sheff’s pixelated younger self and investigate the silver gymnasium even further.

So while this album might be slightly different than Okkervil River’s previous work, it was unpredictable, and I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. In fact, it might be for the best. Sheff’s personal touches, ’80s references and personal anecdotes allow for a meaningful collection of music that transcends its initial catchiness.

Original Author: Gaby Velkes