The Silver Gymnasium - Okkervil River
Metascore
78

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. Sep 4, 2013
    100
    It’s one of the most honest albums I’ve heard, but even better, it’s told with expertise.
  2. 90
    Nearly every song embodies this symbiotic relationship of adolescent daydreams and the ominous real world, as if each tune was its own coming-of-age novella.
  3. 83
    For the most part, Silver Gymnasium makes for an uplifting and triumphant listen, with a positive energy running through the music and the melodies.
  4. Sep 3, 2013
    83
    It’s the work of a band that’s learned it doesn’t need to completely reinvent the wheel in order to keep things fresh.
  5. This album finds them going all-out in swashbuckling revelry for the most part, and it suits them better than anyone might have expected.
  6. Sep 3, 2013
    81
    The Silver Gymnasium grows on you, and sooner or later its nostalgia becomes your own--only the names and places are different.
  7. Jan 27, 2014
    80
    Onwards and upwards. [Oct 2013, p.109]
  8. Oct 16, 2013
    80
    A stirring evocation of childhood, community and the nature of memory, The Silver Gymnasium suits being pored over as much as it does driving on a sunny day--and it suits both very well indeed.
  9. Sep 30, 2013
    80
    This time around, they’ve toned down on the drama and, despite Sheff wanting to make this album quickly, seem to have taken the time to recount the past so they can tell their stories with appropriate reverence to being young.
  10. Sep 26, 2013
    80
    I catch whispers of Oliver's Army, Dexy's, Jesus and Mary Chain: my own youth rising to the surface, just as Sheff intends.
  11. Sep 19, 2013
    80
    The period specificity doesn't weigh down this buoyant album. [No. 102, p.60]
  12. Sep 3, 2013
    80
    It all combines to create an album of magical (realist) splendor, a journey into a past which will always have more to offer each time you listen to it.
  13. Sep 3, 2013
    80
    Sheff's willingness to strike a balance between his roots rock past and his personal past should please longtime fans and newbies alike, even if they spend the majority of the ride wondering why the tour bus never actually stops at the Silver Gymnasium.
  14. Sep 3, 2013
    80
    Whether exploring a lost little town or his own lost soul, Will Sheff proves an excellent tour guide.
  15. Aug 30, 2013
    80
    [The Silver Gymnasium is] the sincerest, most heartfelt album they've yet assembled, and it's all the more powerful for it. [Oct 2013, p.60]
  16. Aug 30, 2013
    80
    Often dark, but strangely triumphant. [Oct 2013, p.92]
  17. Aug 30, 2013
    80
    The Silver Gymnasium finds the band a little more controlled, the emotions a bit more corralled, more focused. [Aug-Sep 2013, p.93]
  18. 80
    It’s Okkervil River’s most mature album yet--coming after six previous records that were already fully formed.
  19. Sep 5, 2013
    78
    Like Arcade Fire's Funeral and The Suburbs, there's a thrashing catharsis in childhood emotions, but Sheff balances raw moments with a more mature filter.
  20. Sep 4, 2013
    72
    Gymnasium is yearning and wide-eyed, steeped in action figures and Atari. Where this record veers from its predecessors is in its pervading optimism.
  21. 70
    Preferring to be a bit more refined, The Silver Gymnasium mixes maturity and depth with rare awkward moments which are more typical of a band that is musically in their late adolescence.
  22. 70
    There's a strange disconnect here, one that might be ironed out by facing the past head-on rather than treating it as a concept.
  23. Sep 26, 2013
    70
    Much like the youth the record so pointedly evokes, it’s worth going through everything to get to this point.
  24. Aug 30, 2013
    70
    The showmanship and pomp of The Silver Gymnasium render youthful curiosity and naivety with dazzling honesty.
  25. Aug 30, 2013
    70
    Ostensibly about a specific time and place, The Silver Gymnasium confirms Okkervil River as a band that's still too crafty to settle for anything so simple as a straightforward paean to childhood, using this boilerplate structure to examine the deeper meaning behind the natural impulse to fixate on the past.
  26. Sep 3, 2013
    68
    Perhaps when performed live these songs will accrue the desperation and dynamism their studio versions lack, but for now The Silver Gymnasium too often makes the act of remembering sound like a consequence-free undertaking, as though certain horrors are too far in the past to do us much harm in the present.
  27. Oct 16, 2013
    60
    For all their assiduous construction and heartfelt subject matter, Sheff's songs struggle to match the abundant hook-line quotient of his youthful influences and inspiration. [Nov 2013, p.88]
  28. Sep 30, 2013
    60
    The musical arrangements, laden with pianos, brass, synths and strings in occasionally strained approximation of Arcade Fire, aren't always so nuanced. Still, in its more understated moments, such as slow-burn closer Black Nemo, music and memory chime beautifully.
  29. Sep 19, 2013
    60
    On the whole, the band’s country-leaning indie rock pulses along for 49 minutes at a decent clip.
  30. Sep 6, 2013
    50
    The Silver Gymnasium has Sheff getting increasingly personal, though it sometimes seems as if he has no more personal secrets left to reveal. The new experience is stunted by the fact that everything really just sounds like a memory.
  31. Sep 3, 2013
    50
    Ultimately, though, the album is weighed down by verbose lyrics and excess ambition.
  32. Sep 27, 2013
    40
    The Silver Gymnasium lacks some of whatever it was that made previous albums like 'Black Sheep Boy' and 'The Stage Names' so special.
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 8 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Oct 28, 2013
    10
    Stick with this one. There's magic in it everywhere. Will Sheff's best singing, most moving lyrics (aside from Savannah Smiles)...all buried in a brew of the musical memories of our childhood. Full Review »
  2. Sep 5, 2013
    8
    No Black Sheep Boy but still a very solid album. Large variety of styles that they had yet to touch on. Very valuable and nostalgic. Allow some song are a bit boring, songs like PInk Slips, On a Balcony, and It was my Season hold it up. Full Review »