Faith In The Future
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Craig Finn is better known as the lead singer of indie-rock heroes The Hold Steady. His new solo album, Faith In The Future, is the best thing he’s been a part of since THS’s 2008 standout Stay Positive. In the interim, he released two more Hold Steady albums that didn’t quite scale their previous heights and a solo album, 2012’s Clear Hearts Full Eyes, which seemed tentative.
Faith In The Future quickly assuages any doubts with standout opener “Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son.” Over a thumping drum beat, Finn gets inside the head and heart of a character rebounding from a sour experience with a cult who still finds the grace to reach out to Maggie and offer her solace and love: “Close your eyes and keep on breathing/ And slowly turn your face up to the sun.”
Finn is still as sharp as ever with his details and as striking as ever with his lyrical gambits; who else would start a song with a couplet referencing a chain restaurant and his pre-THS band Lifter Puller as he does on “Roman Guitars?” (“The pigs all stormed the Bennigan’s/ The band played ‘Touch My Stuff’ again.”) Meanwhile, the absence of The Hold Steady’s power chords actually benefits these songs, allowing the tenderness of romantic pleas like “Sandra From Scranton” and “Christine” to shine through.
This is still a guy who writes downbeat story songs with the best of them; “Sarah, Calling From A Hotel” is somehow both touching and terrifying all at once. But there is a hopeful bounce to closing track “I Was Doing Fine (Then A Few People Died)” that can be found sneaking into other dark corners of the album as well. On “Going To A Show,” Finn sings about concert going, “Some nights it just feels like the same old thing/ Some nights it feels like a new frontier.” One listen to Faith In The Future and you’ll know that it definitely falls into the latter category.