The Hold Steady seems like a particularly apt name for the lauded New York band following the release of its fifth full-length, Heaven is Whenever, earlier this year. After a grip of albums that cranked the populist, classic-rock bombast of Thin Lizzy and Boston through frontman Craig Finn's hyper-literate, spoken-sung sensibilities, the group has stabilized its sound lately. That's partly due to the departure of longtime keyboardist Franz Nicolay and partly due to the fact that Finn's scattershot yet somehow tightly controlled narratives have begun to spring more from the gut. He's even — God forbid — starting to sing a little more now, although the most striking thing about Heaven is the more direct, even introspective bent, an approach that quotes Hüsker Dü both in spirit and in name (in the song "We Can Get Together"). That doesn't mean, of course, that the Hold Steady has gotten any less explosive on stage, where it continues to earn its title as the reigning thinking person's bar band. Even if they've gotten a bit too big to play the bars.
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