Label: Razor & Tie
The sixth Hold Steady album steamrolls over the laissez-faire Heaven Is Whenever. This is a back-to-basics record -- except it isn't: The jarring double-tracking on Craig Finn's still-talky voice obscures the lyrics you want to hear, and the slick production ensures you won't notice the guitar hooks on "Spinners" and "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You" until at least listen three, which is when you'll start to realize you need these songs in your life. We could do with more bands who think sellout arena-rock is like R.E.M.'s "Finest Worksong" and make ballads like "The Ambassador."