Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “It Was My Season” by Okkervil River from the 2013 album The Silver Gymnasium on ATO.
Named after a short story by Russian Tatyana Tolstaya, Austin’s Okkervil River craft intricate narratives across their highly-literary folk rock. Led by songwriter/lead vocalist Will Sheff, the group’s early gigs in Austin in the early 2000s generated interest from indie labels, and by 2002, they’d signed to Jagjaguwar and become SXSW staples. The band’s fourth album, Black Sheep Boy, served as their critical breakthrough and started a run of well-received albums that saw Sheff’s detailed songwriting develop into one of the decade’s most distinctive styles. Frequent touring and a collaborative album with Roky Erickson has led to the band becoming one of the last decade’s most acclaimed cult bands, and with the release of their seventh album, The Silver Gymnasium, the now-septet earned their first Billboard 200 top ten album. The spiky “It Was My Season” serves as the entry point into The Silver Gymnasium‘s narrative, which is based around Sheff’s childhood in Meriden, New Hampshire. Barroom piano follows Sheff’s vocal line throughout the song as the other members contribute guitar, drums, and keyboards to accentuate his tale of childhood confusion. Vibrant and nuanced, “It Was My Season”, as well as The Silver Gymnasium as a whole, is another well-crafted chapter of Okkervil River’s ever-growing songbook, and a testament to Sheff’s ability to continue to mine past myths to create stories that are far more interesting than the events themselves.
Okkervil River’s tour behind The Silver Gymnasium will stop in Seattle at the Showbox at the Market on October 25th. Get tickets and more information about that all-ages show here, keep up with the band on their website and Facebook page, and watch the band play “Lost Coastlines” live for KEXP in 2008 below.