During the last five years, as a critically acclaimed rock band with indie-cred galore balancing family with life on the road, the Hold Steady has been inundated with change. On “Stay Positive,” due this week via Vagrant, the Brooklyn-based band confronts these issues not only by expanding its sonic repertoire but via frontman Craig Finn’s insightful narratives.
Finn says the album is “by and large about growing older and being faced with adult choices and decisions,” issues particularly evident on “One for the Cutters” and “Lord, I’m Discouraged.” “I guess I felt like the end of your 20s-you become sick of going out, and being sick of going out all the time because you felt like you had to,” he says.
Groundwork for the new songs was laid on the road last summer, but Finn knew a summer 2008 release was likely so he was able to refine the material over time. “It helped me a lot, to put a riff down and sing it to myself,” he says. “It was good to get off the road and have a lot of ideas fleshed out.”
Finn also took singing lessons, a decision he made in hopes of learning how to control his voice better. New instruments were added to the mix (harpsichord and talk box on “Joke About Jamaica”), resulting in an album that remains steeped in nods to classic rock radio, but fresh enough for longtime fans to see a progression.