BY MISCHA PEARLMAN
Will Sheff has never been shy of ambition – something amply demonstrated by his work with both Okkervil River and, until he left in 2009, Shearwater – but The Silver Gymnasium is perhaps his most elaborate undertaking yet. Entirely autobiographical, the eleven songs of this seventh Okkervil record all take place back in 1986, in Sheff’s hometown of Meriden, NH.
But The Silver Gymnasium more than eulogizes that time and space. It brings it back to life. Rather than swimming in retrospective nostalgia, these songs (and their lyrics, which read like short stories) merge the past with the present. “Walking Without Frankie” is a throbbing evocation of innocence just before the fall, “Lido Pier Suicide Car” is the sound of bones growing in the town you know you’re going to leave behind and “Black Nemo” is bathed in the dwindling light of those everlasting Indian summers of childhood. It all combines to create an album of magical (realist) splendor, a journey into a past which will always have more to offer each time you listen to it.
DOWNLOAD: “Lido Pier Suicide Car”, “Black Nemo”, “Walking Without Frankie”