Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Craig Finn: "Clear Heart Full Eyes" (album review)

Over the past several years, The Hold Steady have elbowed their way into the pack of bands whom I consider my personal favorites.  I was definitely excited then, when word came out last year that lead singer and songwriter Craig Finn would be releasing his first solo album.  That album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, comes out on January 24th.

Fans of The Hold Steady will be very familiar with the themes of this record.  Finn, as always, feeds us a steady diet of songs the depict loneliness and seediness in the city through the tales of a rich cast of characters.  The half-spoken, half-sung delivery

That being said, where The Hold Steady albums tend to have a fun, or even comical resolution, there's no such light at the end of the tunnel for those who reside in this set of songs.  Tracks like "Rented Room" and "Western Pier" give you no relief from the depression.

By occasionally using arrangements that juxtapose the sombre lyrics with lighter fare.  "Terrified Eyes", for example, features a playful twangy groove.  Finn plucks away jauntily on "New Friend Jesus".  "Honolulu Blues" is a loose, free-flowing mid-tempo rocker.

Finn continues with his nods to those who inspired him as well.  This time it comes in the form of "No Future", a track that cites (and borrows from) The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In the UK".

Yes, as a fan of The Hold Steady I look forward to more hooks and melodies than are found on Clear Heart Full Eyes.  Removing my expectations and preconceived notions of how this project should sound, I can say that the record is a solid solo effort that delivers something grounded in the familiar, but still it's own.

Best tracks: "New Friend Jesus", "No Future"

Track listing for Clear Heart Full Eyes:
  • Apollo Bay
  • When No One's Watching
  • No Future
  • New Friend Jesus
  • Jackson
  • Terrified Eyes
  • Western Pier
  • Honolulu Blues
  • Rented Room
  • Balcony
  • Not Much Left of Us

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