Album Review
The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever Album Cover

The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever

Reviewed by
The Hold SteadyHeaven Is Whenever
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Record Label: Vagrant
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
If the scene were a church, then The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn would be the pastor. We live vicariously through his intricately woven tales of girls, booze, and drugs. And now we the congregation have another book of sing-along psalms and positive jams courtesy of Finn and company.

The Hold Steady’s fifth studio album, Heaven is Whenever, may seem like a throwback of sorts to fans. Out is keyboardist Franz Nicolay (he and his mustache left the band in early 2010 to pursue a solo career) and in is producer Dean Baltulonis, who produced the first two Hold Steady albums. Finn stated that without the piano and keys “there’s a sense of space in it that I don’t think we’ve had since Separation Sunday.”

And without Nicolay’s grand piano flourishes, it’s up to the guitarists to deliver the goods, and man do they ever. It’s not out of the question to say that this is Tad Kubler’s best work. His riffs and guitar solos in tracks like “Soft In The Center” and “The Weekenders” will get your fist pumping, while his compositions on the eerie finale “A Slight Discomfort” and the sentimental “We Can Get Together” are brilliant. The opening track is a change of pace as well. While past albums have begun with an anthem, Heaven is Whenever starts with the bluegrass musings of “The Sweet Part Of The City.”

While it seems like so much has change, the pillars of The Hold Steady’s sound are still soundly in place. We still get a heavy dose of power chords, group vocals, and nostalgia, especially from the middle portion of the album. “The Smidge”, “Rock Problems,” and “Hurricane J” will all get your heart pumping, packed with riffs that rip right through the songs. Don’t be surprised when “Hurricane J” becomes your go-to song for the summer. The lively “Barely Breathing” features horns, specifically a clarinet solo, and it works within the woodwind-inspired melody. Fans of the last two albums will cling onto “Our Whole Lives,” as it carries a lot of those characteristics.

Heaven and the idea of what it is works as Finn’s prevalent theme for the album. On the aforementioned “We Can Get Together,” Finn recalls his favorite bands and records, offering us a glimpse into his piece of heaven, while the subtle theme is mentioned on tracks like “Our Whole Lives” and “Hurricane J.”

Finn’s incredible storytelling is still present, but this time around he’s a bit more reflective and tad more somber than before. Whether it’s urging his girl to pursue better things (“Hurricane J”), refusing to hook up with a former flame (“The Weekenders”), or offering comfort (“Soft In The Center”), Finn is using his past experiences to help you make better decisions. Amidst the disappointment and tragedy, there is hope, and really that is what has always drawn us to Finn’s lyrics.

With Heaven is Whenever, the most consistent band in rock and roll remains reliable, as The Hold Steady give their sound a fresh update while not straying too far from what makes them so endearing. Hallelujah.

Additional InformationTrack Listing:
1. The Sweet Part Of The City
2. Soft In The Center
3. The Weekenders
4. The Smidge
5. Rock Problems
6. We Can Get Together
7. Hurricane J
8. Barely Breathing
9. Our Whole Lives
10. A Slight Discomfort
Produced by: Dean Baltulonis and Tad Kubler

The Hold Steady is:
Craig Finn – vocals/guitar
Tad Kubler – lead guitar/piano/keys
Galen Polivka – bass
Bobby Drake – drums

Official Website; Official Myspace; Official AP.net Profile; Official Twitter Page

Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 37
03:25 AM on 05/03/10
Erik the Orange
What do they know about friends?
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Erik the Orange's Avatar
What an album! Great review Drew. Hurricane J and the Weekenders are the two best songs, but I can't name one bad song on this CD
03:27 AM on 05/03/10
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ZoSo1886's Avatar
I love this album, and I really enjoy where they went post-Franz. Well done.
04:04 AM on 05/03/10
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birtcho's Avatar
I got these guys confused for Weezer
05:21 AM on 05/03/10
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COREhorizon's Avatar
It's weird, I can't get into this, but I love The Gaslight Anthem.
07:04 AM on 05/03/10
Hagysaurus Rex
We yell like hell to the heavens.
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Hagysaurus Rex's Avatar
I never was a big Hold Steady fan, but this album is pretty damned fantastic and I was surprised by how much I like it.
07:19 AM on 05/03/10
Chris Collum
Goddamn those shaky knees
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Chris Collum's Avatar
Sweet review, Drew. Love the hell outta this album. Can't wait to snatch this tomorrow, hopefully on vinyl!

What an album! Great review Drew. "The Weekenders" and "Our Whole Live" are the two best songs, but I can't name one bad song on this CD
07:32 AM on 05/03/10
Keagan Ilvonen
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Keagan Ilvonen's Avatar
Love this band, love this album.
07:52 AM on 05/03/10
Registered User
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jmartino's Avatar
I'll have to check these guys out, I've heard a lot of good things.
08:17 AM on 05/03/10
Registered User
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TheFactor's Avatar
It's weird, I can't get into this, but I love The Gaslight Anthem.
I do not think there is a correlation. I get the logic as they are both Springsteen influenced, but their sound and aesthetic could not be any more different. Drew's last paragraph pretty much sums it up--this album is a fantastic update on their already great sound.
08:18 AM on 05/03/10
Drew Beringer
Senior Editor - @drewberinger - Locked Groove
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Drew Beringer's Avatar
I'll have to check these guys out, I've heard a lot of good things.
definitely get the whole discography, and definitely check out Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America. Amazing albums.
08:26 AM on 05/03/10
also ice cream.
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SteveLikesMusic's Avatar
Great review Drew.
08:38 AM on 05/03/10
Daigle lol
don't tell me what I can't do!
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Daigle lol's Avatar
Such a great CD, and a great review too.

I don't think they've put out a bad CD yet.. every CD has all the same qualities yet finds a way to improve on the previous one.
08:39 AM on 05/03/10
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WhoSaidThat?'s Avatar
Way to go, Drew. By miles my favorite album of '10 thus far.
08:40 AM on 05/03/10
Registered Member
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HeavenResign's Avatar
I never was too into this band, but this album is without a doubt fantastic. Great review!

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