Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Sept. 16, 2016
On 2013's The Silver Gymnasium, Will Sheff waxed nostalgic about his 10-year-old self in New Hampshire. Away now follows up with the fallout of having reckoned that past. Assembling an entirely new set of players for album eight, the New York-dwelling Sheff maintains the band name but questions what it all means. The result is slow-yielding acceptance rather than thrashing against a career and life at 40. Across nine dense tracks, Away unfolds deceptively mellow and melancholy, yet culminates as neither. "Okkervil River R.I.P." opens the album existentially, like Sheff playing Prufrock, but tinges hope – if not in rebirth, recycling. "Don't look back until you realize you're pointedly not trying to look back" declares "Call Yourself Renee" amid soft strings and jazz flourishes. While "The Industry" takes appropriate shots, the cathartic close of "just let go" suggests Sheff refusing to dwell on the past. "Judey on a Street" throbs Lou Reed to the tender "She Would Look for Me," and "Frontman in Heaven" unhinges visions that spill into dreamy stream-of-consciousness closer "Days Spent Floating (In the Half Between)." Will Sheff creates albums as statements, and Away ultimately rings with a wonder in letting go.