So I guess it is a thing now to record a bunch of extra songs when you go in to make your album, knowing full well that you're going to make the crappy songs into a follow on album? Is that a thing? Sufjan Stevens is doing it, and now Okkervil River has done it twice. I guess in the past all of that music would have sat around on master tapes for years, until anthologists resurrected it to put on greatest hits records as the "never before released" tracks, and I guess that always sucked, if you were a hugs fan of a band, but by and large, people are releasing records that don't come close to the maximum run-time of a CD, so you have to figure the stuff that doesn't make the record is probably better off unreleased.
But anyway we have this thing now, and I blame the internet for it, and here is Okkervil River's latest record, The Stand Ins. In discussions with other Okkervil River fans, the words "5th best Okkervil album" have been bandied about, which is not how they would like to bill the record, I am morally certain. I think that's not true (I think it's probably 3rd best), but I also think that's not fair. This is a record that should be compared with one and only one other Okkervil River album, and that album is Black Sheep Boy Appendix. And in that comparison, I think The Stand Ins is the clear winner.
"Lost Coastlines" is the real intro to the record. I always like Okkervil's up-tempo work a little more than their quiet songs (notable exception is "A Girl In Port")
"Starry Stairs" is the follow-up to "Savannah Smiles" from The Stage Names, which I think benefits from a little interpretation. If you don't know what these two songs are about, they are less remarkable, but once you do a little reading, they make a lot more sense.
"Pop Lie" is another good up-tempo number.
When I saw that Charles Bissell (of the Wrens) was credited for guitar on "Singer Songwriter," I was excited. Listening to the track was a big let down. I assume that Charles Bissell is playing the obnoxious guitar sting in the verses, but that's unremarkable at best, and the song is one of the worst on the record.
Overall: You'll like it if you like Okkervil River, but remember, these are the songs that didn't make the cut for The Stage Names.