Pitchfork Bestows The Hold Steady With An 8.4
For a while there, it seemed like any band from Minnesota who put out a record got pooped on by Pitchfork. First, there was the great Tapes N' Tapes murder of 2008, where the 'Fork called Walk It Off "a textbook sophomore slump" before ever-so-gently backhanding the MPLS quartet with a 5.9. Oh snap, son! Apparently, the fork giveth and the fork taketh away.
What's that? Is that you, Cloud Cult? Did you put out your eighth album of cathartic, artistically-minded, socially-conscious orch-rock this year, too? How. Dare. You. Feel Good Ghosts felt pretty bad, and so the 'Fork slapped the album with a 4.2.
Things didn't look so good for major MPLS acts. But, as one man said, "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold", and it so happens that that's the very album which started the Minnesota upswing, with Atmosphere's sixth album receiving a solid 7.0. The next big MPLS "indie" release is Stay Positive, the fourth album from The Hold Steady, which comes off the heels of the rapturously received Boys and Girls In America. So how did Craig Finn and company do? Drum roll please...
8.4!. That's good enough for the 'Fork's "Recommended" tag. Writer Jason Crock states that "While its title and lyrics often make Stay Positive sound like a darkest-before-the-dawn kind of record, the themes Finn keeps returning to... all speak to the redemptive power of second chances. When the Hold Steady plead with you to 'stay positive,'... you could do worse than take them at their word." Read the rest of the album review here.
But Pitchfork isn't the only online rag heaping praise upon the group. Yesterday, liberal opinion journal Salon published a great essay from Idolator/A.V. Club writer Michaelangelo Matos' review of Positive, which puts the band's work in the context of the NYC scene from the early aughts, the American road trip, and Craig Finn's past work in Lifter Puller. About Stay Positive, Matos writes
"Stay Positive" is a natural progression -- backward and forward. Nothing rhythmically fancy goes on in Hold Steady songs, but their beat hurtles, and Kubler and Nicolay both have a gift for instrumental fills that complement the onslaught of words. While there are a lot of new touches, particularly the brazenly plastic synthesizers of "Navy Sheets" and a handsome array of acoustic instruments on several songs, most of the time they just play basic rock. But they do it well enough that it can feel like you haven't heard its like in years. No new ground is broken; none needs be.
Read the rest here.
Re-read April Wright's take on Stay Positive below.
Stay Positive is out now.
The Hold Steady MySpace Page