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The fifth studio release from Brooklyn-based the Hold Steady marks a transition for the quartet. With the defection of keyboardist Franz Nicolay, their sound is now tighter, more guitar-driven.

Lead singer Craig Finn, who years ago supplanted Bruce Springsteen as America's most Catholic lyricist, mostly eschews the religious iconography that informed earlier releases like Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday, although St. Theresa (the saint) and St. Paul (the city) both appear in the opening "The Sweet Part of The City."

"Soft in the Center" is a cautionary tale, built around the metaphor of thin ice on a frozen lake. "The Weekenders" introduces each of the song's verses with ethereal, U2-style shimmering guitar lines. The familiar Hold Steady themes of partying and bars are echoed in "The Smidge" and "Hurricane J."

The line, "Father I have sinned/ and I want to do it again/ eventually," ends "Our Whole Lives," and the last cut, "A Slight Discomfort," closes with a heavy wash of drums, keyboards, horns, and guitars.

  • Album title: Heaven Is Whenever (2010)
  • Artist: The Hold Steady
  • Label: Vagrant
  • Songs: (1) The Sweet Part of the City (2) Soft in the Center (3) The Weekenders (4) The Smidge (5) Rock Problems (6) We Can Get Together (7) Hurricane J (8) Barely Breathing (9) Our Whole Lives (10) A Slight Discomfort
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