New Tunes Review: The Hold Steady ‘Teeth Dreams’

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The Hold Steady “Teeth Dreams”

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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Announcement! EuphonieBlog will soon enter retirement and I will be migrating to a new site.  Stay tuned for all of the exciting details!

Links List: Jan 24 + new singles from The Both & The Hold Steady

Some tracks from upcoming albums were released online.

List: Best Concerts of the Year, Part 2

Here is part 2 of my best concert list of 2012:

John Roderick (January 28, Mercury Lounge)
The Long Winters have not released an album since 2006. Frontman John Roderick really knows how to engage an audience. With a plethora of witty banter and audience participation, this was one of the most fun concerts of the year. Now all there is to do is hope for a new album sometime this decade.

Pulp (April 11, Radio City Music Hall)
Pulp is a newer discovery for me.  After many different people suggesting this English alt-rock band to me, I dove into their discography and then went to see them live.  The live show sold me.  Jarvis Cocker pranced around the stage and up the sides of Radio City Music Hall. He had so much energy and the band was tight. The entire audience danced along and sang out the lyrics. It was a pretty magical experience.


Regina Spektor (May 15, United Palace Theater)
United Palace is a very unique place to see a concert.  Located in Washington Heights, it has the charm of the old theater. In fact, it looks like no updates were made this century. Spektor fit in perfectly in this venue. Her old-school charm and quirky nature really shined through.

Radiohead (June 13, Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden NJ)
Radiohead, outside venue, Thom Yorke dancing. That is really all that needs to be said.

Bob Mould (Sept 7, Williamsburg Park)
This former Husker Du/ Sugar frontman started the set with the seminal Sugar album “Cooper Blue.”  He then went on to play other selections from his solo releases and Husker Du albums.  Another energetic concert, the background of an concrete park fit perfectly with the vibe of the songs and Mould’s voice.  His album “Silver Age” is definitely one of the best of the year.

Bonus: The Hold Steady (December 31, Wellmont Theater, Montclair NJ)

Opener Lucero really pumped up the audience and laid the groundwork for an excellent show. 

Despite being put on hold for about 10 minutes due to an incident on the dance floor, this show was awesome top to bottom. With a set of older and newer songs, Craig Finn and the rest of the band worked the audience through fist pumps and sing-alongs.  They counted down at midnight and shot confetti into the audience.  There was complimentary champagne and giant balloons that floated from the stage.   It ended around 1:20 in 2013 and can be counted as one of the best shows of 2012 and 2013.

Thursday Top 3: "Grower" Bands

I am a big believer in “growers,” those bands that take more than one listen to truly appreciate.  To call a band a ‘grower’ is not a negative thing. Instead it simply means that the first impression of a band may not be the most accurate one.

     It is like that person who, at first, you don’t like.  You think they are weird. You don’t get their sense of humor or their pop culture references. You keep hanging out with them, however, because you see a little bit of good in their character.  Maybe they have good taste in beer or an interesting fashion sense.  Then something strange happens.  After a few hanging-out sessions, you start to laugh at their jokes. You start to recognize their references and even add on a few of your owns.   Suddenly they are your new B.F.F.F.

     By the same token, growers are bands that at the first listen do not soothe the sense, but with a few more spins make perfect sense…
1. The Hold Steady
To me, The Hold Steady is the ultimate example of a grower band. The first time I listened this Minneapolis band, I was not a fan. I could not get past Craig Finn’s voice or how he sing-talks. The guitars were too loud and raw. I did not get why everyone loved this band so much.

But now, I get it.  The beauty of The Hold Steady can really be found in their lyrics.  The songs are simply stories about friends, bar nights, parties, adventures and bar nights.  The stories told in “Party Pit,” “Massive Nights” and “Chillout Tent” are more of a shared-history than a rock song.  It is to the extent that their friends seem familiar – like your friends. Not all of THS’s songs are loud.  The quieter and more vulnerable ballads, like “Citrus” and “Lord, I’m Discouraged,” are prime examples of the ever reaching talent that this band possesses.  It only takes a few tries to recognize it.
How Resurrection Really Feels (from “Separation Sunday”) mp3
Citrus (from “Boys and Girls in America”) mp3
2. Pavement
     For some reason, I always ignored Pavement as one of those bands on my “very influential yet not my taste” list. I had heard a few songs in the past but it never stuck.  Then, while creating this list, I decided to give them another try (at the suggestion of Kevin, from the-Audiobahn).  As I downloaded “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” and “Slanted and Enchanted,” I did not know what to expect. I had listened to a lot of Stephen Malkmus solo stuff in the past and liked it but was not thrilled by his voice or off-kilter lyrics.  But what the hell.  Second time is the charm, right?
     After only a few listens of each of those pivotal Pavement albums, I immediately found myself bobbing my head along with the 90s sensibilities of many of their songs, like “Cut Your Hair” and “Filmore Jive” (from “Crooked Rain”).  Many of the songs on “Slanted and Enchanted” are reminiscent of Weezer’s “Pinkerton.”
     So my advice if you have disregarded Pavement in the past: give it another chance. This is a prime example of when a really influential band is actually good and not just incredibly overrated.
Gold Soundz (from “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”) mp3
Zurich is Stained (from “Slanted and Enchanted”) mp3
3. Bon Iver
I love mountainy musicians, like Fleet Foxes and Ray LaMontagne. I usually develop an admiration instantly because, I think, part of me wishes I lived surrounded by sky-lines made of mountains instead of those made of sky scrapers. The instant love I expected to have with Bon Iver did not happen at first sound.  It was something about the raw nature of his voice that made me wonder, “Could anyone’s voice actually sound like that naturally?”  I liked the guitars though so I kept listening to “For Emma, Forever Ago.”  After 12+ listens, I grasped the true talent of Justin Vernon.  His voice is definitely an acquired taste. But I believe his unique voice and gorgeous lyrics have secured him a place in the Mount Rushmore of mountainy musicians (if there was one).
For Emma (from “For Emma, Forever Ago”) mp3
Blood Bank (from “Blood Bank EP”) mp3
Honorable Mentions:  Neko Case, Martin Sexton, Regina Spektor, Vampire Weekend

Thursday Top 5: Booze-Filled Tunes for V-Day

So, with Valentines’ Day coming up this weekend, I wanted to do a list of songs related to this day that, I believe, was created by greeting card and florist companies to make loads and loads (and loads) of money on one day. But instead, I decided to do a list of songs, in no particular order, that are drenched in booze, feelings and all that good stuff. Enjoy!

1. The Good Life, I Am Island mp3

 

“Because the night’s tragic rambling/ is the next day’s apology. / So if you can just sit tight until the sun hits the blinds / we can settle everything.”

 

No one knows how to describe the sullen mood of boozing quite like Tim Kasher and The Good Life.His howling voice accurately conveys the feeling associated with those booze-fueled evenings that end with regret of what was said.The drunkard in this song is unsure of everything. He hopes to soothe the uncertainty with a drink or two but finds it just makes things worse.In just under 2 minutes and thirty seconds, the mood goes from trying to work things out to realizing that he is just a “selfish” and a “dysfunctional fuck up” who quits, baby.

2. The Hold Steady, You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came To the Dance With) (live) mp3

 

“I was out of my head so it was out of my hands/ White wine and some tall boy cans./ They powered up and they proceeded to jam man.”

 

The Hold Steady have so many songs about drinking.But this is by far my favorite one.To me, it is almost educational.Let me explain that:In the Live at the Fingerprints 2006 performance, Craig Finn bantered about how this song title isn’t about dancing, per-say. It is a simply piece of advice that you have to stick to one type of alcohol per night otherwise you will regret it in the morning.Everyone has made that mistake and, without fail, has woken up with a nasty headache, stomachache, and sometimes, heartache.Listen to The Hold Steady on this one; they know what they are talking (singing) about.

3. Bright Eyes, Well Whiskey mp3

 

“Now I let my troubles solve themselves./ I used to get involved, but I’m just no help./ But tonight let’s pretend that we’re just like we were./ Let me stay until the morning, I will sleep on the floor.”

 

Omaha, Nebraska-native Bright Eyes has a history of writing great songs about alcohol (“Hit the Switch,” “Lua,” etc).This one has a special charm to it. Whiskey is a drink associated with, often, the most unattended of folks.The smell that flows from the glass can be alienating at best. And the taste is as overwhelming as the odor.

The whole song is basically a testimonial to what happens when whiskey is the drink choice. Whether it be from the every-day well or the special occasion “top shelf,” the mood is one where postulating about the past and future is the norm.Control is exalted to the glass and nostalgia takes over. Whatever the outcome of the night is, a swift washing of clothing will be performed in order to get the stink of the night off the rags.Whiskey never fails to leave a stench on all it touches.

4. Deer Tick, Art isn’t Real (City of Sin) mp3

 

“I am just going through the motions./ I need an old fashioned potion./ There has gotta be some old recipe / ‘cuz I gotta get drunk/ I gotta forget about some things.”

 

Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, this band released their first studio album “War Elephant” in 2007.Their folksy sound is paired with the raspy voice of lead-singer John McCauley. In this song, which is the second song on the album, he describes an obsession with thinking. He is hopeful for things to get better, but for the time being, he feels that they might not.He is regretful for wasteful actions. He dwells on bad memories. He wants to go back the simpler times but cannot.It is a familiar feeling that, to be sure, has been experienced by most 20-somethings trying to find their place in the world after four years of blissful college life.

5. Regina Spektor, Bartender mp3

 

“I’ve been too candid./ Now I’m barely standing./ Just call me a taxi and prepare for landing.”

 

Now it should be stated that the extent to which I like female vocalists is pretty limited at best.But I love Regina Spektor.There is something so raw about her persona that I feel the emotional severity in each note she sings.And with this song, I can relate to every single word she utters as she slams on the piano. Even the smallest details of this song, like the way she repeats ‘bartender’ over and over again emphasizing each syllable, is a perfect portray of the way one feels after clasping to the bar stool all night.Things get fuzzy after a point and last call is coming. It’s time to put down the glass and get on home. Things will never feel quite the same until next time of course.