ATO Records will release Okkervil River’s In The Rainbow Rain, the group’s most immediate ‐ and meaningful ‐ album to date.
On it, bandleader Will Sheff makes a startling left turn from the their critically‐lauded and inward‐looking 2016 album Away, crafting an exuberant declaration of hope. In place of Away’s somber strings and acoustic textures, In the Rainbow Rain is full of dazzling colour, spattered with starbursts of electric guitar, big blooms of synth, and a chorus of backing vocals.
It’s a buoyant and playful record, but also open and emotionally vulnerable. Sheff says, “I wanted to make a record where a sense of kindness felt encoded into the music.”
In The Rainbow Rain ‐ produced by Sheff and mixed by Shawn Everett (Perfume Genius, Alabama Shakes, The War on Drugs) ‐ serves as showcase for Sheff’s writing and the musical interplay of his new band mates, Benjamin Lazar Davis (bass), Will Graefe (guitar), Sarah Pedinotti (keys) and Cully Symington (percussion) ‐ the same iteration of Okkervil River that joined Sheff on the Away tour.
Sheff and the band started work on the new album shortly after the end of that tour ‐ and the presidential election. “If December 2016 was good for anything, it was good for writing songs,” he says. Galvanized by the seismic events of that Fall and the following year, Sheff, sometimes co‐writing with his new band, channelled his outrage and sadness into music intended to be hopeful, healing and uplifting.
Inspired by the Quaker meetings he had been attending, Sheff injected the album with undercurrents of spirituality and gratitude. The result is something akin to a modern secular gospel record, and among the best music of his career.
Highlights include driving, melodic anthems “Love Somebody” and “Pulled Up The Ribbon,” and “Famous Tracheotomies,” which chronicles notable figures who’ve endured the titular procedure, including Gary Coleman, Dylan Thomas, Ray Davies, and Sheff himself. “In places, the record deals with heavy things like trauma and betrayal and shame, but, actually, it’s supposed to be a good time,” says Sheff. “I hope it’s something fun, that makes people feel happier.”
Okkervil River will tour in support of In The Rainbow Rain, including a stop at SXSW and a Canadian stop in Toronto on June 14 at The Horseshoe Tavern. See below for a full routing, all tickets go on sale this Friday, February 16.
Okkervil River’s 2016 album Away (ATO Records) earned praise from the New York Times, who dubbed the record “wry and wistful,” and NPR Music, who called the music “gorgeous…warm, soft and contemplative.”