New Music: Okkervil River Album and 8bit Video Game!

September 3, 2013 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

I don't know which to talk about first: the album itself or the 8bit video game which was inspired by it and accompanied by a chiptunes soundtrack of each song off the new album. On September 3rd you and yours are in for a huge treat. Austin-based Okkervil River is finally back at it with their seventh studio album, The Silver Gymnasium. Join New Music Editor Lisa Thomas after the Jump for more details!

I don't know which to talk about first, Okkervil River's new album The Silver Gymnasium released today on ATO or the 8-bit video game which was inspired by it.  Firstly, there is absolutely zero filler on Silver Gymnasium. Equally as exciting as zero filler, the album is free of annoying and unnecessary studio effects or negative space.

Take note kids, this is how you make a record sound not only authentic AND raw, but appealing and polished at the same time. Austin-based Okkervil River is no newcomer to the indie rock scene having formed in 1998.  They self-released their first album, Stars Too Small to Use, which landed them at the South by Southwest music festival in their hometown of Austin, Texas.

Shortly after, they signed with Jagjaguwar.  They went on to record four more albums, including the critically acclaimed concept album Black Sheep Boy. The band has garnered positive critical reception throughout the years, but never become a household name (does one even care to be a household name, these days?).

They have performed with such high-profile bands such as The Decemberists, The New Pornographers, Lou Reed and The National to name a few.  Mostly, Okkervil River's energy and excitement comes through loud & clear on Silver Gymnasium. This is the kind of "indie rock" that puts a skip back in your step as you tell your friends "You HAVE to listen to the new Okkervil River."  

Describing himself as a "socially awkward, nearsighted, asthmatic kid", the album is a recollection of lead singer/songwriter Will Sheff's childhood in Meriden, New Hampshire. This nostalgia rings true throughout the lyrical content, but not within the music itself.  As the listener, you feel as though you're gliding comfortably into the unknown future while reflecting upon your past through lyrics that almost take Silver Gymnasium from album format to literary format.

Now, let's talk about this 8-bit video game, Sheff teamed up with Eyes And Ears' Benjamin Miles to build and correspond with the album.  It is a point-and-click adventure with basic, but beautiful 8-bit graphics, a chiptunes soundtrack composed by Miles and based on music from Silver Gymnasium.  

Sheff states "The use of retro graphics and sound is a creative catalyst in addition to being thematically relevant to the album's 80's childhood inspiration.  While the plot of the game isn't tied directly to the album's progression or anything quite so conceptual, the use of 8-bit graphics and chiptunes itself helps engender a strong creative bond between the game and the record."  

Aside from the music itself, what captured my attention the most was the beautiful artwork which accompanies this album. Will Sheff collaborated with an old friend William Schaff on an elaborate map of his hometown, Meriden New Hampshire shown above

Okkervil River has also announced a tour in support of the record.

08-24-25 Monterey, CA - First City Festival
09-07 Boston, MA - Boston Calling
09-19 Mobile, AL - Alabama Music Box
09-20 Tallahassee, FL - Club Downunder
09-21 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
09-23-24 Washington, DC - 09:30 Club
09-26 New York, NY - Terminal 5 *
09-27 Ithaca, NY - The Haunt
09-28 Toronto, Ontario - Phoenix Concert Theatre
09-29 Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
10-01 Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge
10-02 Little Rock, AR - Revolution
10-04-13 Austin, TX - Austin City Limits Festival
10-18 El Paso, TX - Tricky Falls
10-19 Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent Ballroom
10-20 Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
10-24 Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
10-25 Seattle, WA - The Showbox
10-26 Vancouver, British Columbia - Rickshaw Theatre
11-01 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
11-02 Chicago, IL - Metro
* with Pickwick, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

It Was My Season from Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River

Love and Good Things
Lisa Thomas
New Music Editor