Here’s the thing. I have a number of albums piled up that I’ve been enjoying, and I thought about just doing a long music catch-up post, in which I just do a bunch of short, uninvolved reviews, since apparently that’s perfectly acceptable now. Which of course comes from streaming being the norm now, and the fact that album’s that are more than a month old feel like relics of the distant past.
Or at least, it feels that way for me. Possibly because my job allows me to just burn through many albums over the course of a work day. And then there’s the fact that if I went to the trouble of writing a proper review of an album, I’ll almost certainly just give it somewhere between 3 and 1/2 and four stars, and call it a day. Which makes the whole album review format that we’ve been doing for years feel a little outdated.
But I still want to believe that worthwhile music is worth more than a single paragraph and a back-handed compliment. Because as my Spoon review demonstrated, even when I don’t feel like I have much to say about an album, I’ll probably still have plenty to say about an album, and especially if it’s an artist I have a relationship with.
Craig Finn, the leader of The Hold Steady (one of my 2 or 3 favorite bands of the ’00s) is certainly one of those artists, even if I’ve had a little trouble warming up to his solo outings. Hell, if I’m being honest, 2012’s Clear Heart Full Eyes and 2015’s Faith In The Future were albums I probably listened to about once or twice (mostly out of obligation), before putting on Separation Sunday for about the billionth time. But We All Want The Same Thing feels like a sizable leap forward for Finn’s solo singer-writerdom.
And it’s a little hard to pin down why that is, since Finn always kind of seems like a guy who just keeps doing the same thing, or at least lyrically. Which sounds like a bit of a dig, but is more meant as a compliment to how consistent the guy has been as a storyteller with a clear through-line that’s been running through all of his music. At this point, the guy feels to me more like a great American short story writer than a rock musician, as you can always depend on him for top-notch tales of recklessness and redemption, even if they’ve grown a little wearier into his solo albums.
So as usual, the quality of the lyrics are as (what for it…) steady as ever. But I guess the album is just more musically impressive than either of Finn’s other solo albums, and possibly any of The Hold Steady albums for that matter. The production is at times adventurous, as it includes horns and synths (sometimes on the same songs), and even rocks every once in a while. But it’s all in moderation, which I suppose is what makes this album feel special. After singing songs about hard partying with everything raised to eleven, Finn has found a way to make a mature record about life’s little compromises, but without the music itself ever feeling like a compromise.
Favorite Tracks: “Jester & June”, “Preludes”, “It Hits When It Hits”