The Stage Names is the fourth full-length studio album by American alt-country band Okkervil River, released on August 7, 2007. The album was recorded in Austin, Texas, with longtime Okkervil producer Brian Beattie, and with mixing from Spoon drummer and producer Jim Eno. Like other Okkervil River albums, the accompanying artwork is the work of artist William Schaff. The cover refers to a line from Unless It's Kicks. The record was also released as a limited-edition 2-CD set that included a second disc of solo acoustic demos. A newly recorded version of Love to a Monster, which appeared in rough demo form on the band's tour EP Overboard and Down was originally intended to appear on the album, but didn't make it on, and appears as a bonus track when the album is purchased through eMusic. Shannon Wilsey on the Starry Stairs described by lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff as "kind of a sequel to Savannah Smiles and kind of a sister song to John Allyn Smith Sails", is included as a bonus track when the album is purchased through iTunes. The Stage Names was originally conceived as a double album. Sheff said about the inspiration for the album, "There's this idea of living in a world of pop culture history, high art history and low art history, full of images that are extremely common and meaningful to people but are essentially empty and disembodied. I wanted the record to exist in a universe of reference of signals, signs and bullshit." An official music video was created for Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe directed by Margaret Brown. A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene contains a verse that describes "a boy being buried alive by a criminal with a sensitive soul". This is a reference to a 2006 Cold Case television episode ("One Night") in which the show featured an Okkervil River song ("Black Sheep Boy #4"). Savannah Smiles is a song that deals with the life and death of Shannon Wilsey, a pornographic actress known by her stage name, Savannah, which was taken from the 1982 film Savannah Smiles. The bonus track, (Shannon Wilsey on the) Starry Stairs, is intended to be a sequel to Savannah Smiles. Plus Ones references several other songs with numerical titles including 96 Tears, 99 Luftballons, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Eight Miles High and others, except with one number added (hence the title "Plus Ones"). The term is also used in reference to guest-lists at rock concerts. You Can't Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man makes a passing reference to The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even by Marcel Duchamp. The title itself is taken from a line in the Joni Mitchell song Blonde in the Bleachers. The song name Title Track is an openly self-reflexive gesture. John Allyn Smith Sails concerns the life and suicide of confessional poet John Berryman (originally John Allyn Smith). The song ends by reworking the traditional folk song Sloop John B (made famous by The Beach Boys), likening death to a journey back home. In addition to these specific allusions, several songs on the album have subjects like television, film, and the experience of being in a rock band. Will Sheff has stated that he originally intended the album to be a double-album and that he wrote twice as many songs for it then were used, many of which were completed or nearly completed. He has also stated that the band intends to release a EP of the unused material similar to Black Sheep Boy's companion album Black Sheep Boy Appendix. Reception Reviews have been largely positive with Pitchfork labeling The Stage Names "Okkervil River's most emotionally devastating record yet, and without doubt one of the year's best." The Stage Names has a Metacritic rating of 82. The album debuted at number 62 on the Billboard 200 with 10,000 copies sold. Harp Magazine listed the CD as the best of 2007. Our Life is not a Movie or Maybe was #81 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007. Read more on Last.fm.
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