Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Hold Steady

Add Date: May 4

Artist: The Hold Steady

Album: Heaven is Whenever

Label: Vagrant

Genre: Rock

Comments: Tweetable version: This isn't the best Hold Steady record, but it's still a great one.

Full version: The Hold Steady are back with what Craig Finn and Co. have declared a "new, more stripped-down sound" in contrast to their previous sprawling Springsteen-meets-Kerouac brand of classic-indie rock. (For more of that, check out their previous records -- Separation Sunday, Boys and Girls in America, Almost Killed Me, and Stay Positive, in that order.) They can still do the beefy rockers (see "The Smidge," the one with cowbell that would make Christopher Walken proud) alongside the tender ballads (see "We Can Get Together," definitely the record's strongest moment).

But despite the use of the word "heaven" in what seems like every other song, the record feels a little less complete than the rest of their catalog. They're still clever in the lines they spin and the licks they bust out: catchy-as-hell "Hurricane J" and the 1-2-3 punch of the record's first three tracks showcase these traits nicely. Yet despite these standout tracks, I find myself only casually listening to the rest of the record. Sure, The Steady can't ride the concept album shtick into the ground, but no matter how repetitive their stories might be, they're so damn irresistible. (Why not try a real acoustic record, boys? "Citrus" is still a knockout.) Hold steady.

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