Right now, something interesting is happening with the Hold Steady, one of this century’s greatest rock bands. Plenty of great rock bands go through burnout, and sometimes that burnout leads those bands to break up. The Hold Steady haven’t broken up, even if they haven’t released an album since 2014’s Teeth Dreams, and even if they don’t really tour anymore. These days, a few times a year, the Hold Steady will pick a city and play a few shows there. And they also crank out one-off singles pretty steadily, including last month’s excellent “The Last Time That She Talked To Me.” They’ve effectively become a part-time operation, one that runs on the band members’ own terms. And that’s freed up the members of the band to do other things, like make solo albums. Frontman Craig Finn has made a bunch of them, and he’s got a new one about to come out right now.
Finn’s new LP I Need A New War is his fourth, and it’s also the third in a loose trilogy that also includes 2015’s Faith In The Future and 2017’s We All Want The Same Things. On those albums, Finn leaves behind the splenetic, physical riff-rock joy of the Hold Steady, instead adapting to a more stately and laid-back indie rock style. On I Need A New War, he’s gotten about as comfortable with that style as he ever did with the Hold Steady. It’s an album full of pianos and lush backing vocals and soul-derived open space. It’s a sound where Finn doesn’t need to yell to be heard. But he’s still doing impeccably worded stories about down-and-out Midwesterners, doing them with fun and empathy and grace.
I Need A New War is out 4/26 on Partisan Records.