Craig Finn's new LP We All Want the Same Things came out last week and you should definitely buy it because it's his best yet.
I'll probably write a proper review of We All Want the Same Things at some point in the very near future, but for the moment, I'd like to take a quick look back at Finn's last two solo outings: 2012's Clear Heart, Full Eyes and 2015's Faith in the Future. It's been really interesting watching the singer from The Hold Steady build up his very own body of work outside the band, and so for the benefit of any Hold Steady fans who haven't yet sampled Finn's own-name stuff, I've chosen five of my favourite tracks from each of those records and sequenced them into this nifty little playlist. I hope you enjoy it - maybe have a listen while you wait for your copy of the new album to arrive?
1. Western Pierfrom Clear Heart, Full Eyes
A delightfully creepy track from Clear Heart, Full Eyes that staggers like an axe murderer with a wounded leg. "Someone saw something just east of here..."
2. Newmyer's Rooffrom Faith in the Future
A rollicking, driving track about 9/11 and everyone's state of mind in the aftermath of that day. 'Doubting Thomas' is one of the many Biblical characters Finn threw into modern America on Faith in the Future.
3. When No One's Watchingfrom Clear Heart, Full Eyes
It's got a nice little guitar riff, this one. A rather cynical song aimed at "a weak man living off of weaker women". Finn sounds kind of disgusted as he sings.
4. Sarah, Calling from a Hotelfrom Faith in the Future
This one struck me like a brick when I first heard it because I had not long gotten out of a relationship with someone named Sarah and it all felt eerily close to home in a number of ways. One of Faith in the Future's quieter moments but definitely one of its best.
5. Rented Roomfrom Clear Heart, Full Eyes
My favourite song from Clear Heart, Full Eyes. It so perfectly evokes the feeling of hanging around by yourself in a squalid little flat on a hot summer evening and wondering if your life gets any better further down the line. Strangely soaring.
6. Going to a Showfrom Faith in the Future
"I try so hard not to talk to myself, but it's hard 'cause I'm always alone..." Man, there are some really lonely vibes on some of these songs, aren't there?
7. Honolulu Bluesfrom Clear Heart, Full Eyes
This song is just a dang good time. The band jam out a loose 12-bar blues while Finn sings about travelling and religion and some demented door-to-door evangelist who stole his chainsaw.
8. Christinefrom Faith in the Future
Another quiet, melancholy moment from Faith in the Future. I like this description from Christine's entry on genius.com: "It concerns the unrequited love the (perhaps too) cautious narrator has for his (perhaps too) adventurous friend."
9. Not Much Left of Usfrom Clear Heart, Full Eyes
A gorgeous break-up song with more than a hint of that ol' country and western sadness. Perhaps it's so affecting because it focuses not on the end itself but on that little doomed period just before the break-up during which both parties know it's over but neither are ready to formalise it yet.
10. I Was Doing Fine (Then a Few People Died)from Faith in the Future
My favourite song from Faith in the Future. In my opinion, Craig Finn's music is at its best when it's at its most straightforward - Birds Trapped in the Airport and Tangletown, two of my personal highlights on the new LP, work wonders by just finding a groove and ploughing straight ahead without feeling any need to jump around too much - and this is a great example, with Finn sitting atop a simple but superbly effective chord progression and describing two friends getting together during a turbulent time and chatting about their troubles over a few bottles of wine.