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10:29 AM on 04/01/14
#2
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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I've been meaning to check these guys out on your recommendations. Should I start here or with Boys and Girls of America?

Definitely Boys & Girls. After that, the order doesn't really matter, but that's their apex.

Great review. I feel about the same. It's a fine record. Not their best, but it definitely doesn't deserve the negativity that other critics are giving it.

I genuinely don't think the critical reaction to either of these albums has been fair at all. The band had to change. Stay Positive is find, but they'd perfected that style of songwriting on Boys & Girls, and any attempts to recapture the same magic would have been inauthentic. I'm glad they went in a different direction.

The Hold Steady began and ended for me with Separation Sunday. This album doesn't change that.

You're missing their best album then...

it sounds like you and i had very similar college experiences.

ive struggled so much to get into this record, and i think it's because i don't have a car and it's still cold and im listening to it at work on my computer and i just can't relate yet. i don't know how i feel, but i do know that the way you describe in such detail and personality all that makes this band interesting and relevant really gave me the chills.

thanks for writing this, really great.

Thanks for reading Blake, and for the compliments. They mean a lot.

And don't write it off just yet: this record is definitely going to get better when this awful slog of a winter is truly over.
04:06 PM on 04/01/14
#3
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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Great write-up, great band, so-so record

So I'm guessing this will go down as your least favorite record from them. Which songs DO you like?

The Hold Steady will always bring me a few sweet jams every album, so I'll never complain.

Yep, never fails.

great review--safe to say you blew Pitchfork's out of the water Craig.

Yes! That's what I was aiming for! Haha, thanks bud.
07:48 PM on 04/02/14
#4
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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First impressions.

I do miss the hyper-detailed lyrical style. Finn is still a genius but I feel like these lyrics are less impactful because I don't care about the characters he mentions -- they are almost all just he, she, you anyway (no names). I cared about Holly and the rest of the gang. I feel like there is less to dig through due to the record having fewer self-references than any other THS album as well.

The production doesn't fit, you're right. The vocal effects still annoy me, especially on the couple of tracks where the reverb just goes beyond a joke. I'm looking at you, Runner's High. For a 'big rock record' the music doesn't hit with any force. Still some great guitar work though. I love Lucero so am stoked on the addition of Slevdige.

Song-by-song this album is really good. I'll give it a lot more spins before I can back this statement up, but it might have as many killer tracks as Stay Positive (which, by the way, also got a P4k BNM). It also has less tracks than Stay Positive, so is a more consistent album. Although I don't think it hits the highs SP did, and so it's still rung below for me (for now).

Separation Sunday will always be their best, followed by Boys and Girls. Stay Positive and Almost Killed Me are killer as well, and Teeth Dreams could be in their league. I think it's better than Heaven is Whenever because I really only still love two songs from that record, Weekenders and We Can Get Together. Which brings me to my final point.

The Hold Steady have already released two of my favourite albums ever, so I don't feel a need for them to drop another classic record. If they can keep writing good albums which each have a few standout tracks that can be added to my imaginary THS best-of mixtape, I'll be happy. Teeth Dreams accomplishes that easily. With more spins, it could mean even more to me.

Nice review -- I liked the stream-of-consciousness style.

As far as production is concerned, it reminds me of The Gaslight Anthem's Handwritten. Both go for the big rock record sound and add a ton of production flourishes compared to the bands' previous stuff. I think it was a more natural fit for Gaslight, though I don't entirely mind the production here. There are just a few moments where it's all too much.

The thing is that I LIKE most of them...it's just that I don't LOVE very many. The only ones I really connect with in any semblance of the fashion in which I've connected with their music in the past are "The Only Thing" and "Oaks" and even then those would be two bottom-tier songs on any other THS record in my book. All of the others I like to varying degrees except "Almost Everything" which is pretty blah. And then "Spinners" goes on too long and the chorus feels weird and awkward to me, like it doesn't fit or is a bit too slow or something. I dunno. Which is a damn shame because the verses, especially the first one, and the pre-chorus is all great

Those are probably tops for me as well, though I also really like "The Ambassador" and "Spinners." We differ, however, in how much we like those songs compared to the rest of the band's catalog. At very least, I'd call "The Only Thing" one of their best songs, and I think it would be one of my three or four favorites on any record of theirs except Boys & Girls. That's also the track where the production works best, imo, so it being the best song on the record is probably not coincidental, ha.

This review is amazing man. Love the blog format and background. I also got really into heaven is whenever but also stay positive (initially due to Ben Nichols guest vocals on the 2 tracks) but agree on Boys and Girls in America. I really became a fan once I saw them live. Will be spinning the new one soon

Thanks! It was originally a blog post actually, and I liked it so much that I just decided to keep it as it was. Glad you enjoyed it.

He said my name's Steeeeve Perry baby, people call me "Circuit City"

Haha, was thinking that too.

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