The Hold Steady, "Heaven Is Whenever"
Brooklyn-based band the Hold Steady explores what happens when the party ends on fifth album "Heaven Is Whenever." The departure earlier this year of keyboardist Franz Nicolay means less Springsteen-like keyboard embellishments, but the group's Everyman quality remains intact thanks to vocalist/guitarist Craig Finn's straightforward lyricism and lead guitarist Tad Kubler's signature swells. Mellow tunes like opening track "The Sweet Part Of The City" and "We Can Get Together" bring out Finn's inner Counting Crows. And themes of nostalgia and introspection are more aggresively covered in singalongs like "Rock Problems" and "The Weekenders." A sweltering guitar solo, throbbing bassline and steady kick drum on the latter track sets up Finn's narration of an attempt at rekindled passion. Despite the loss of Nicolay, the rock'n'roll band soldiers on. Finn puts it best on album closer "A Slight Discomfort," where he sings, "We've seen scattered action and we mostly came out unscathed."-Melanie Bertoldi