In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best.
This ninth album from group features some of the strongest personal song writing from leader Will Sheff, something which made other career high points like The Stage Names (2008) so effective.
The band’s 1980s influences, as used so well on The Silver Gymnasium (2013), are also deployed perfectly here once again.
And it feels like a band, rather than just Sheff and some others. That’s because he used the same close knit group that were with him two years ago on tour to promote their Away album.
“It was my favorite touring experience in many years… I felt like a kid again. I realized how phenomenally lucky I am that I’ve been able to play music for this long,” says Sheff.
The results are uplifting and even spiritual in places, which is perhaps no surprise as Sheff’s recent visits to Quaker meetings are clearly a huge influence on his life currently.
Opener Famous Tracheotomies is superb. Here Sheff recalls the time of his own windpipe incision as well recounting the variety of celebrities to have also had this procedure.
It’s a track Mountain Goats songwriter John Darnielle would have been proud of. There’s something so bizarrely life affirming about hearing about the medical records of the likes of Ray Davies, Gary Coleman and Motown star Mary Wells put to a laid back 80s pop funk soundtrack.
There’s some great melodies here too. The Dream the Light is superb enough with its gospel choir and cheesy synths, but is elevated further by its strong chorus.
I had to check that Love Somebody wasn’t a cover of an 80s chart ballad. It sounds so familiar, like I’ve been listening to this on radio for years. Turns out that its definitely Okkervil River, written by Sheff, bassist Benjamin Lazaar Davis and guitarist Will Graefe.
It’s not all 80s FM pop though.
Don’t Move Back to LA with its acoustic guitar picking is a timeless addition to the Okkervil River collection. Just beautiful.
The list of fine tracks goes on across an album of all killer, no filler and one I’d recommend to any Okkervil newbie as a great place to start. That’s not something you can often say about an act that has been around for 20 years.
By Joe Lepper