The year’s most literate (and rocking) album

Most people don’t get into rock and roll for the lyrics (see: “Louie Louie”), but there are those brilliantly writerly musicians who make you want to Google the words while listening to their music. That’s certainly the case with The Stage Names, the new album by Austin-based Okkervil River, which combines strong writing with hooky chords to produce a roll-down-the-car-windows-and-turn-up-the-volume essay on celebrity, art, fandom, and the ecstatic power of rock.

While painting a vivid (and sometimes dark) picture of an America glimpsed from tour vans and stages, lead singer Will Sheff never forgets to liven things up — the track “Plus Ones” packs in references to Paul Simon, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Byrds, and “99 Luftballons,” while “John Allyn Smith Sails,” a contemplation of the poet John Berryman and suicide, is somehow weirdly uplifting.

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This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. The year’s most literate (and rocking) album