Artist: Craig Finn
Title: “Clear Heart, Full Eyes”
Format: NPR First Listen (Spotify)
The distinct, deep bar room croon of The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn is as indelible as his penchant for clever, nuanced lyrics. It’s what has defined Hold Steady’s brand for the past decade.
Some of these traits carry over to “Clear Heart, Full Eyes,” the Minneapolis-born singer’s debut solo effort.
As is to be expected, “Clear Heart” is lyrically precise, filled with characters real and imagined throughout his life. Jesus and the Bible are heavy influences, too, with the son of God both as his new friend, the butt of his jokes (“It’s hard to catch with holes in your hands”) and as the jury.
As sharp as his lyrics are, musically, Finn’s first solo effort feels listless and unfocused. One wonders what element of these songs Finn felt did not or could not fit within The Hold Steady.
A country vibe snakes through the record, biting into tracks as it pleases, with slide guitar whinnying through “Balcony” or “Western Pier,” while “New Friend Jesus,” “Terrified Eyes” and “Honolulu Blues” are twangy rockers.
If you’re not a Hold Steady devotee, there’s little in “Clear Heart” that will make you reconsider that stance.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.