Artist: The Hold Steady
Album: Stay Positive
Release date: July 15
Label: Vagrant Records
The driving guitars and piano that open "Constructive Summer," the anthemic opener on this thrilling album, you know you're in for a ride. And lead singer Craig Finn lets you know it: "We're gonna build something this summer/We'll put it back together, raise up a giant ladder/With love and trust and friends and hammers/We're gonna lean this ladder up against the water tower/Climb to the top and drink and talk."
The parallels and similarities to the Springsteen rock anthems that permeated clubs and bars in the 1980s goes without mentioning. This is music to party to -- dirty music, in a good way. It's great, grungy, angst-filled rock. It's music to play on warm nights drinking with friends or blazing summer days soaring down the highway. No wonder they chose that summer anthem as the first song.
This record grabs you in with that opener and doesn't let go. The next song -- "Sequestered in Memphis" -- is a humorous drunken sing-a-long about a hookup with a girl on the run with the law. This song is The Hold Steady in their element -- thunderous, piano-driven, fun rock.
And the rest of the album follows the same path. It flows by without warning, hitting you hard from every angle and by the time the closer, "Slapped Actress," rolls around, you'll be begging for more.
And that's the real charm of this record: as similar as some of the songs may sound and as hard as it may see this band is trying to evoke Springsteen, you want more at the end. You'll press repeat and listen to it again. Because the music is that good.
And not just the piano arrangements or the thumping guitars, but the lyrics that examine a broad range of topics from domestic abuse ("Some nights it's entertainment/And some other nights it's real" on "Slapped Actress"), suicide ("When one townie falls in the forest, does anyone notice?" on "One for the Cutters") and romance ("I know you're pretty pissed/But I hope you'll still let me kiss you" on "Magazines").
If this band keeps it up, they'll be legends just like The Boss.
Stand-out tracks: Magazines, Sequestered in Memphis, Slapped Actress
Track of the week:
Albert Hammond, Jr. - Miss Myrtle
On my first listen through Albert Hammond, Jr.'s terrible-Spanish-grammar-titled ¿Cómo Te Llama?, this track was the immediate standout.
The quick, tiny picks of the guitar dive into a Jamaican afro-beat jam about Hammond's angst and inability to tell what signs a girl is sending him.
"Tomorrow is long overdue/I'll be thinking of you and/Lights go out, I know it's you/I'm just like you: easily confused."
It's a quick, beautiful and great song that's unfortunately easily lost on the back end of the album.