Published Apr 23, 2018Good news/bad news: In the Rainbow Rain, the latest album from Okkervil River, is as hopeful and punchy, but also as clunky as its title. After releasing 2016's Away, singer-songwriter and bandleader Will Sheff parted ways with many of his band members, spent a year tending to his grandfather in a hospice and became disenfranchised by the 2016 election.
He spent the next year writing what will be the most positive and uplifting album of his career, bringing in many musicians he toured with, along with the War on Drugs and the Voidz producer Shawn Everett. Opening with the Gary Coleman-referencing "Famous Tracheotomies," a song that stands as Sheff's cheesiest yet most engrossing song he's ever written, In the Rainbow Rain tirelessly moves into the ELO-synth sound of "The Dream and the Light," the proggy effects of "Love Somebody" and the gaudy female background vocals and click track of "Family Song." And that's just the first four songs.
Although there are some standouts on the album, like the vocal push-and-pull of "Don't Move Back to L.A.," the soulful "Shelter Song" and the dramatic buildup of "Human Being Song," Sheff sounds rather lost throughout this album, hampered by indecisive arrangements and ambling verses. On In the Rainbow Rain, Sheff wanted a fresh new start; too bad he seems so hesitant about it. (ATO Records)