Its been 4 years since the last Hold Steady album.
The new album, Teeth Dreams, is an expansive record with nods to all of the usual influences. Certain songs refer to the usual cast of characters. Some phrasings call back to old slogans. The locations are the same. The sentiments are the same. Craig Finn is the same, mostly.
The thing that stuck out to me the most was the frequency of acoustic jams. With a total of 10 songs, Some of them (“Almost Everything” and “The Ambassador”) are in the vein of “Lord, I’m Discouraged” (from 2008’s Stay Positive). This is not a bad thing. One could speculate that this is a by-product of the band growing older. You can write about ruckus partying forever. The scene moves on and I believe the band gracefully accepts that.
Of course there are more positive, upbeat songs. “I Hope This Whole Thing Doesn’t Frighten You,” the album’s lead single and opening track, “The Only Thing,” and “Spinners” are of the record’s most memorable songs because they are the most Hold-Steady-esque.
Like, the lyric “Heartbreak hurts but you can dance it off” in “Spinners.” These 8 words pretty much illustrate the entire Hold Steady ethos. Their songs and live showmanship encourage you to put troubling problems behind because you are among supportive friends.
“Big Cig” and “On With the Business” were the most “talk-singing” tracks and seemed like an attempt to regress into their weirder, earlier material. The closing track, “Oaks,” ends with a long guitar solo, much like certain classic-rock songs.
It is hard to decide where this album will eventually rank. It is definitely not on the same level as Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America. As a first impression, I believe it goes somewhere between Stay Positive and Heaven is Whenever.
iTunes is streaming the new album for free. It comes out March 25, 2014.
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