The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
It's taken me a bit of time to get around to post about this album (or on anything else for that matter), but better late than never I suppose. When writing about a much-publicized album an entire week after its release, a music blogger runs the risk of being viewed as incredibly behind the curve and as a complete hack, but alas, I still plan to post on the Decemberists' new album as well.
The album has been heralded by virtually every publication that has reviewed it and my personal favorite line written about the album was this one from All Music: "This is a smoking little record. Its focus is small, its reach is large; it's a winner." Right on. If you've yet to hear it, just give in and invest 40 minutes in this album. One complete spin and you'll be on-board with the rest of us. Did it merit the months of hype and incredibly enthusiastic 9.4 rating it received from Pitchfork? Probably not. However, it is a concise, fun, and rocking effort; one that really shouldn't be scrutinized on any deep level...one that should just be enjoyed without over-thinking it.
Released the same day as the Killers' much-maligned sophomore album Sam's Town, some comparisons were made between the two albums. First thing's first, the bands sound nothing alike-- but, they do share a strong Springsteen influence on their new albums. Where, as P-fork's Rob Mitchum correctly pointed out, the Killers' Boss aping all-too-often resulted in cheesy cringe-producing Meat Loaf-type faux grandeur, the Hold Steady seem much more genuine when channeling Bruce and crafting tales of common people struggling in a nearly poetic fashion. (See also, Pitchfork's spot-on review of Sam's Town)
Boys and Girls in America is not as conceptual or large in scope as its predecessor, Separation Sunday, but it is more immediately accessible and a stronger overall record. My only real complaint about the album: I still kinda cringe every time I hear the female singer on the first chorus of "Chillout Tent"; it's pretty awful. As always, frontman Craig Finn's vocal style (more speak, less sing) will still rub some the wrong way, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any indie rock fan that couldn't find something they enjoy here.
MP3: The Hold Steady - "Chips Ahoy!"
Listen to the entire album here.
Buy the album here.