Will Sheff resurfaces with new band, new sound

Away, released last fall on ATO, is billed as an Okkervil River release, but it features frontman Will Sheff with an entirely different band behind him. When Sheff began writing Away, he wasn't sure if it would be an Okkervil River release, and he even titled the first song on the album “Okkervil River R.I.P.”

But listening to that gorgeous, contemplative leadoff track, the song feels more like a rebirth than a death. While Sheff has never eschewed finger-picked guitar and orchestral arrangements, gone are many of the rock 'n' roll hallmarks of Okkervil River's critically acclaimed albums (2005's Black Sheep Boy, 2007's The Stage Names) and recent, more polarizing records (2011's I Am Very Far and 2013's The Silver Gymnasium). Jazz and avant-garde musicians add unexpected and welcome flourishes throughout, and the addition of Marissa Nadler's vocals fits the new aesthetic just right.

It's possible Okkervil River may never top the magic-in-a-bottle beauty of “Lost Coastlines,” off 2008 album The Stand Ins, but Sheff isn't interested in rehashing the past. He's putting it in the grave, and the act seems to have given him new life.