Craig Finn: We All Want The Same Things

Craig Finn
We All Want The Same Things
(Partisan)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Very few artists can drop you down in the middle of a slice of life and then show you the whole pizza pie quite like Craig Finn. The frontman for The Hold Steady discovered on his last solo release, 2015’s Faith In The Future, that there was value in toning down the power chords and giving his musical short stories space to breathe. We All Want The Same Things continues in that same vein; if there’s any difference, it’s that the stories might be even more engrossing this time around.

Many of the songs on the new disc concentrate on relationships. The line between genuinely loving and needing someone and using that person either for a specific circumstance or as a distraction from a messed-up life is crossed over and back again. The titular couple of “Jester & June” try to go back in time but find star-crossed memories instead of nostalgia, while the spaced-out soldier in “It Hits When It Hits” thinks he’s found love, only to be contradicted by the ominous beat and creeping woodwinds in the music.

Finn still returns to his St. Paul, Minnesota, neighborhood to add to the mythology he’s built up around the place, but there aren’t many answers in the old haunts. The protagonist of “Preludes” finds himself stuck in a snow bank, abandoned by both his hockey team and his buddies, while the hero and heroine of “God In Chicago,” which features Finn in spoken-word mode, get away from a tragedy for a brief, happy interlude in the Windy City, only to return home in tears.

We All Want The Same Things closes out with “Be Honest,” as Finn opines, “Ain’t it funny how we all get by/ But not the way that makes us laugh.” Smiles may be hard to come by on We All Want The Same Things, but flat-out songwriting excellence is in plentiful supply.