Album Review: The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever

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The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever (Image courtesy of Vagrant Records)

Heaven is Whenever is the 5th album from the Hold Steady, and is self-described by the band as a "less anthemic and more complex" CD. Singer Craig Finn has certainly carved out his place as a great musical storyteller and this new CD is no exception. Lyrically, there is more introspection than in previous albums, fewer stories about other people and perhaps a little more about Finn himself.

For those who deem 'classic rock' as dirty words, the Hold Steady is not the band for you. But if you think about a band in 2010 that writes straight ahead rock and roll, what else will they be referred to in 20 years if not 'classic rock?'

Vocally, it's a little less "Craig Finnish" and perhaps more melodic with both lead and backing vocals; sleigh bells, cowbells, hand claps and tamborines round out the straightforward instrumentation on Heaven is Whenever.

Being a New York band for so many years now, there are far less references to MPLS (Finn's beloved home town) on this record. However, "Barely Breathing" — a stand out track — name checks the 7th Street Entry.

There are beefy riffs and the same cleaver wordplay you've come to expect from a Hold Steady record. But if you looking for the experimental techno dub Hold Steady record, this ain't it.