Lou Reed loves 'em. So does Roky Erickson, and so will you (if you don't already). Based in Austin, Texas, and named for a Russian short story, Okkervil River's roots reach back a decade to frontman and songwriter Will Sheff's small New Hampshire hometown. They've hardly been strangers to Seattle, with a dozen shows here in less than five years, including memorable performances at the Georgetown Music Festival in 2006 and Bumbershoot the previous year. Now they're back with a new set of songs; their fifth album, The Stand Ins, was released this week. It's a sequel to last year's breakthrough, The Stage Names (the two originally were conceived as a double album), and it's a worthy successor, thematically and musically. Sheff is a unique talent, with a distinctive, emotive voice that's always front and center, and lyrics that function like short stories and are notable for their wordplay and dark wit. He brings everything he has to the stage, and leaves it all out there—expect plenty of sweat and broken strings. A versatile supporting cast carries out an ambitious musical vision that's rooted in folk-rock but can go just about anywhere, making effective use of horns and strings. Longtime fans will miss keyboardist Jonathan Meiburg, who left the band earlier this year to concentrate on Shearwater, his side project with Sheff.
Wed., Sept. 17, 8 p.m., 2008