Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff has always told stories through song; he's affixed entire albums to various characters and their (at times less than) heroic journeys. The Silver Gymnasium, however, introduces a refreshing new protagonist: Sheff himself. The band's seventh album is directly inspired by his childhood in Meriden, New Hampshire, invoking youthful blitheness through major chords, spirited brass, and a gloriously anthemic Springsteen tribute to boot ("Down the Deep River"). To further convey the playfulness, the band even designed an eight-bit video game—scored by a chip-music version of the album—as accompanying promotional material. All in all, it's a welcome return from the depths of Okkervil River's last full-length, I Am Very Far, which at times felt like the twitching, many-limbed opus of a mad scientist. With Gymnasium, we are reunited with that smart and joyous rock band we love. RAQUEL NASSER
128 NE Russell, Portland, OR 97212
Hours: Ballroom open for events only, Cafe open: Tues-Sat 5 pm-"late"