Okkervil River

In the Rainbow Rain (ATO)

Texas Platters

Less than 30 seconds into Okkervil River's ninth full-length, we learn that Will Sheff, the creative leader and frontman for the Austin-birthed act, endured a tracheotomy as a baby. The bizarre admission of album opener "Famous Tracheotomies," an oral history of celebrities who've undergone the procedure, encapsulates the tone of In the Rainbow Rain, a joyous and witty introspection eschewing the somber pining of 2016's Away. Aside from the delightfully twee absurdity of that Eighties pop, the chorus of "Don't Move Back to L.A.," a Seventies folk-country plea to a lover not to abandon New York City (where Sheff now lives) for the temperate climate and friendlier rental market of Los Angeles, almost takes on an R&B tone in its earnestness. Sheff, however, still lends his compositions heft. The drum machine on "Family Song" is quickly reinforced by blooming, lush guitars and thoughtful piano lines, and album standout "How It Is" punctuates the thick synth universe it creates with acoustic guitars, saxophone blasts, and group shout choruses that feel Arcade Fire-esque in execution. Nearly two decades into his career, even without childhood ailment confessions, Will Sheff is still full of surprises. (Okkervil River appears at Mohawk on Saturday, May 26, as part of the Hot Luck festival)


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