The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

The Hold Steady
Stay Positive

With a commanding guitar riff that sounds like it was stolen straight off of Peter Buck’s guitar, “Constructive Summer” finds Craig Finn and Co. jamming out and having a good ol’ time. With Stay Positive the band have presented another knockout and stay true to their unyielding belief of churning out great, albeit distinctive albums, time after time.

Finn decided to take vocal lessons for the first time and the fruits of his labor are evidenced throughout the entire album. On the synth-heavy “Navy Sheets” his voice is actually able to sing in linear motion and toward the end of the song his voice leaps from word to word in an impressive manner. This decision especially pays off dividends on the album’s softer songs like “Lord, I’m Discouraged.” With the band providing glimmering guitars and sparkling keys behind him, Finn’s matured voice sounds sincere and accomplished.

Nothing on Stay Positive hasn’t already been heard before but The Hold Steady sure know how to provide it. Songs about lost souls, revolving characters that re-appear from album to album, themes of religion, mortality, partying, drug-use, and sadness are just a few that are brought out to light.

The title track is a romping cut that does everything in its power to appropriately match the album’s title. It’s a stomping rocker complete with snatching guitars, hammering snares and Finn’s unmistakable delivery — it’s one hell of a song. The album only gets better as it finishes with the reflective “Magazines” and the Weezer-ish guitars on “Slopped Actress.” “Joke about Jamaica” is a fine reason why The Hold Steady is out to prove that yes, lyrics do matter. The ability to write in depth stories and pair them with awesome music is a skill that hardly any bands possess, but The Hold Steady humbly waves its flag as one of the best ones out there.

The lead single, “Sequestered in Memphis,” is without a doubt, one of the best songs The Hold Steady has ever recorded. The band chose to employ a tenacious horn section and the hand claps and bar-shouting vocals all make up for one killer summer anthem. Always relying on its ability to laugh and kid about everyday life and its corresponding struggles, The Hold Steady once again flex its muscle. The following song, “One for the Cutters,” embraces a fascinating choice of sounds and instruments as Franz Nicolay lays down a harpsichord-like keyboard that sounds like it could be the melody on any of Bach’s chamber Baroque pieces. He switches to his reliable piano in support of Finn’s drawl while the rest of the bandmates supply sublime music all around.

All of their ideas work and with all of the pieces to the puzzle fitting nicely, they make up one remarkable picture. Stay Positive is a true testament that good music will always prevail. One can only hope that a band like this will continue to make music for years and years to come because we desperately need it.