Okkervil River | IN THE RAINBOW RAIN
In the past, Okkervil River have written songs about confessional poet John Berryman and porn star Shannon "Savannah" Wilsey. The fact they were both beautiful and heartbreaking says something about this most literary of bands. Like many songwriters right now, Will Sheff is wrestling with a Trumped-up world. He has reacted not by going inward and acoustic, but open and upbeat. Sure, opener Famous Tracheotomies is about the titular medical procedure Sheff underwent as an infant. But not only does he find commonality with others who have had the operation - Gary Coleman, Mary Wells, Dylan Thomas, Ray Davies - but he dresses the song with tinkling keyboards, a skipping beat and a winking reference to Waterloo Sunset. At first glance, In the Rainbow Rain seems to take a page or three out of The War On Drugs' playbook, while some of the preset rhythms and the odd squawking sax solo suggest an '80s yacht-rock throwback. You sense Sheff is striving for optimism in troubled times. On Shelter Song and How It Is he is reaching out for connection via soul-tinged pop. And on the twinkling Family Song he boils it down to basics: "You're alive, I'm alive."