Okkervil River, "The Stand Ins" 

Will Sheff is one literate dude; any writer or reader who listens to indie rock will tell you so. Big deal. What matters is that Sheff, the man behind the River, knows how to put together rootsy-but-poppy arrangements that do justice to his always great lyrics. His vocals, though sometimes far too dramatic, are stellar enough to steal the spotlight at times, too. That said, “The Stand Ins” (a follow-up to last year's “The Stage Names”) doesn't offer the dark grit of the band's first few releases. Great, but not nearly as essential as the brooding bliss of those first four proper records.

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