The genius of the Hold Steady has long been the balance of frontman Craig Finn's streetwise colloquial poetry and the band's party-rock hooks. Finn's recent solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes
, is a less beery affair, with alt-country tones providing the backdrop to the lyrics. Things get pretty spare and spoken-word at points, but it's absolutely a must-own for any self-respecting Hold Steady fan. I've listened to "Rented Room" — I bathe in the dark, it feels like a womb/I know I should be getting over you/Certain things get really hard to do/When you're living in a rented room
— probably 75 times since it landed on the Web a month ago.
Finn is at RecordBar this Saturday, February 11, with Mount Moriah. Some friends of mine saw him Tuesday in Chicago and said he killed it. Listen to a couple of songs from Clear Heart by clicking here.