You probably best know Craig Finn as the hyper-literate frontman of The Hold Steady.  If you’re familiar, you probably love THS’s particular brand of boozy bar rock, but have marveled at Finn’s abilities to create and weave stories within songs and across albums, creating a whole cast of crazy characters from Minneapolis to Ybor City.  If you’re looking for that sort of party-rock atmosphere on his second solo effort, Faith in the Future, you won’t find it, but instead you’ll hear an older, wiser Finn weaving elegant tales about love and loss in the ways he knows best.

This album steps away from the almost-country sound of Finn’s first solo effort, 2012’s Clear Hearts, Full Eyes, and even farther away from the Hold Steady’s signature sound to create a very mature and cohesive album.  Throughout is Finn’s familiar vocal stylings, spat out in a Costello-esque sneer, and the lyrics are, of course, genius.

There’s “Maggie, I’ve Been Searching for Our Son”, which features Finn-as-narrator, presumably chatting with Maggie, talking about all the crazy things he’s heard recently (“A kid went to the movies with a gun”, among others).  Opening single “Newmyer’s Roof” features a line about “Watching the towers go down from up on Newmyer’s Roof”, which is really the only 9/11 reference on the album, although many early reviews seemed to latch onto this with a heightened fervor.  Sandwiched between them is one of the most stand-out tracks on the album, “Roman Guitars”, which sounds like it could soundtrack a parade on a rainy day.  It has a beautiful climactic point near the end but never really goes off, which is the most beautiful thing about it; its restraint is incredible, and really gives you time to focus on the message Finn is trying to relay.  “All the little molecules/Add up to something beautiful”, the song repeats over the outro.  It’s really beautiful, and a lovely sentiment to think about.

Perhaps the best-designed story is found in “Sarah, Calling From a Hotel” which is a really cleverly designed song where Finn is able to tell Sarah’s super-sad story via a phone call.  This cleverly gives him the opportunity to talk about Sarah (who is presumably the narrator’s ex-girlfriend), without writing from her actual POV, which creates a good level of mystery.  From the sound of things, Sarah is in some trouble (“I heard she cleaned up/but I also heard she didn’t”, “The last thing she said to me/Before she hung up the phone/Was ‘Here he comes, he’s got a gun, I gotta go'”).  It’s SUPER-AWFUL and heartwrenching, but it works incredibly well.

I particularly like the early Motown flavor of “Saint Peter Upside Down”, but maybe it’s just the drums.  The chorus and outtro move steadily through and gets a little weird, with some cool texturing effects and trumpet additions that make you feel like you’re in a whirlwind.  And “Trapper Avenue” is maybe the closest song to describing the debauchery of an early Hold Steady song, but with an added bonus of being stripped down until the end, which takes off.  This is a fella who is looking back on his past discretions with a keen eye and a sharp turn of phrase.

Some songs, like, “Going to a Show”, “Sandra from Scranton”, and “Christine” are less remarkable in terms of creating lyrical stories, but still not slouches!  Particularly “Going to a Show” which talks about, well, going to shows alone and how great (or awful) that can be.

My favorite song is also the last.  “I Was Doing Fine (Then a Few People Died)” opens with some choice guitar chords and blippy noises soon to be overlaid with drums, but damn, is it good.  It’s essentially the cousin of “Trapper Avenue” in the sense of recounting past activities, but this one seems particularly poignant and wistful.

If you’re into The Hold Steady because you like shout-along choruses and high-flying guitars, this might not be the solo effort for you.  But if you have always admired Finn’s ability to write poignant, detailed lyrics that sound like novels that cover the span of four minutes, this album is definitely something to get into.  It’s a mature record for a middle-aged rocker, but still has the lyrical attitude and bite Finn and his other band are known for.

 

Craig Finn
Faith in the Future
Partisan Records
September 11th, 2015

Overall Score
95 %

Craig Finn is an older, wiser brand of rocker.

Lyrics 100%
Variety 90%
Musicality 95%

About The Author

Self-deprecating fundraising lackey, avocado connoisseur, pop culture aficionado, latte-drinking liberal elitist.

Comments are closed.