The Hold Steady Heaven is Whenever

The Hold Steady Heaven is Whenever
Following the departure of moustachioed pianist Franz Nicolay, the Hold Steady said that their fifth record would be "less anthemic." Heaven is Whenever is devoid of the obvious "sing-along songs" that populated 2008's Stay Positive. But the music still feels anthemic, even if singing along will take a few extra listens. The vocals sound bigger and the Dixieland horns on "Barely Breathing" suggest the group are thinking outside their creative box, if only for a fleeting moment. Front-man Craig Finn has always come across as a man in flux: too old to identify with the kids, but living a lifestyle unfitting anyone his age. But here, Finn settles into the comfort zone in life, urging the listener to take his advice because "I know what you're going through/I had to go through that too," on "Soft in the Center." The reflective approach gives the music a greater sense of purpose than before. Finn often sings that he started this band because he was bored, implying that the whole thing is a bit of an afterthought. While he still maintains that stance on "The Sweet Part of the City," Heaven is Whenever sounds like he's finally acknowledging, somewhat begrudgingly, his place in the world. (Vagrant)