Written on the beds and beat-up couches of hotels, guest-rooms, and fourth-floor walk-ups during the itinerant Sheff’s travels around the United States and tenure in New York City, recorded in Austin with longtime Okkervil River co-producer Brian Beattie, and mixed with Jim Eno of Spoon at his Public Hi-Fi studio, The Stage Names eschews outsider guests to focus on the core lineup of a backing band made tight and road-weary in rock clubs around the world. These songs give members of this usually shambolic troupe (keyboardist Jonathan Meiburg, drummer Travis Nelsen, electric guitarist Brian Cassidy, bassist Patrick Pestorius, and coronet player Scott Brackett) the occasion to turn in bravura performances as Sheff’s distinctively heated vocals, never more assured or in control, sail on top of them. The music soars, the lyrics cut, chaos is skirted, mystery is courted, and it all looks easy. This is the sound of a band at the height of their powers, effortlessly making good on their earlier promise long after the point where they remember or care that they even made that promise in the first place.
1. "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe"
2. "Unless It’s Kicks"
3. "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene"
4. "Savannah Smiles"
5. "Plus Ones"
6. "A Girl in Port"
7. "You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man"
8. "Title Track"
9. "John Allyn Smith Sails"