If you ever wondered what Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn would do if freed from the constrictions of his celebrated pub rock indie band, the answer is a quieter, more atmospheric Hold Steady record. It will matter to those who already appreciate what Finn and the Hold Steady are all about, but Clear Heart Full Eyes isn’t likely to bring any new guests to the party.
Finn cut the record in Austin with players selected by producer Mike McCarthy, who’s worked with Spoon and Trail of Dead. The unfamiliarity between Finn and his backing group is palpable on songs like When No One’s Watching, where guitars antagonistically combat the singer’s unique storytelling delivery. The problem is more pronounced on Honolulu Blues, where Finn sounds disoriented and out of his comfort zone.
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