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Clear Heart Full Eyes

January 24, 2012 | Format: MP3

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Essential Tracks:

Jackson
Honolulu Blues
Terrified Eyes
Not Much Left Of Us

Craig Finn is like Bob Dylan - you either enjoy his voice or you don't. The question for most people considering Clear Heart Full Eyes is going to be where it falls on the catalog - is it more LFTR/PLLR, The BrokerDealer or The Hold Steady? Does it suck? Should I buy it?

The Hold Steady, No, Yes.

With that resolved - Finn's solo album does have it's occasional moments of awkwardness (lyrical and musical) but overall there were few moments that made me wish it had more Kubler. While Clear Heart Full Eyes fails to reach the heights of his best collaborative works there is little for Finn to be ashamed of here. (Ok, My New Friend Jesus is not the strongest track he's ever put out. I give you that up front.) Oddly one of his strongest tracks, Sarah I'm Surrounded, is not available on the CD. Thematically Finn is still working with his familiar group of people trying to get past obstacles and capture something bright for a moment. Here they face depression, medical bills and the inevitable erosions of time. Some of the tracks could have easily been put out by The Hold Steady, but framing them in this quieter style serves Finn's vocal style well. Solo projects can feel like a closet clearing - something the artist had to get out to go on with his main work. Clear Heart Full Eyes feels like an overflow from an artist with more to say than one band has room for. I look forward to the next album by The Hold Steady, but Clear Heart Full Eyes has won my heart on its own merits.
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Format: Vinyl
When I heard one song in a preview of this album -- "Rented Room" -- I expected Craig was going to put out a collection of slow-tempo songs without the rocking energy of the Hold Steady material. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. This is a terrific album. In some what it's even more accessible than some Hold Steady songs because there are chorus hooks in every song and in almost every song Craig fully sings, without lapsing into the talk-singing he does in a number of Hold Steady songs. Many of the songs like "Terrified Eyes," "No Future" and "Balcony" were instant likes for me, but the other songs build interest almost as quickly. The songs feature all the brilliant storytelling and clever lines listeners have come to expect of Craig, but the music offers quite a surprise in being quite distinct from the Hold Steady standard. A few even have a bit of a country twang. In an interview I read, Tad Kubler acknowledged that his addiction problems may have Craig worried about his artistic future and that he may have put out this ablum to prove to himself he could still have a career if Tad's problems led to the demise of the Hold Steady. Let's hope the latter never happens - and they're already talking about the sixth Hold Steady album. But while you wait for that one, I think most Hold Steady fans will enjoy how accomplished Craig's solo effort is.
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Format: Audio CD
I never post reviews on Amazon, and though in reality I would likely rate this at 4 stars, I had to boost the ridiculously low current rating. Craig Finn is one of the best storytellers in today's music scene and much of this album ranks among his finest work. Many a reviewer has noted that this doesn't match the bombastic rock & roll of a Hold Steady record, but that's not a bad thing. The more subdued, Americana-esque vibe fits the record and the songs really well. If you like to pay attention when you listen, this album will reward you.
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Format: MP3 Music
As a big fan of the Hold Steady, I was ready to embrace this album. I think Craig Finn is a great lyricist and singer, but this album falls a little short of the mark. It's very lyric heavy at the expensive of the music, I think. It's a pleasant listen, but none of the tracks stay in your head. Hold Steady, don't leave me now! I'm sure you still have much more to offer.
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Format: Audio CD
For his solo debut, Craig Finn, known mostly for his band The Hold Steady but also for Mini Apple rockers Lifter Puller, went to Austin, Texas. Noted for it's music scene, college culture, "Keep Austin Weird" mantra and bevy of art house film legends (Terrence Malick is currently shooting a film that uses the town's music scene as a setting), the Texas capital resembles Portland more than it does Dallas. Brooklyn more than Houston or San Antonio. An extremist island of liberals sunk in an ocean of stiff conservatism. To say that Finn and his literary slant fit in instantly with the town's educated, progressive, laid back population would be an understatement. He quickly picked up a band and almost immediately started recorded songs he'd been saving for some time now. Both songs that didn't fit the sound of The Hold Steady and new songs that he was still getting to know himself. Songs with a heavy focus on narrative writing and, maybe more than anything else, Finn's distinctive vocal style, which is a deep, talk-y brand that falls somewhere between early early Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen and the ranting of Louis CK. Along for the ride are go-to Austin producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Trail of Dead, etc.), Centro-matic's Will Johnson and a handful of Austinite studs.

And sure, there's a little bit of twang here (mostly in the drums and slide guitar), but probably not enough to completely lose the THS fans who lean more towards Finn's band's Thin Lizzy and Who influence than, say, their clear love for Springsteen, Westerberg or the Stones. The tracks play through quickly and pleasantly, rarely breaking the mid-tempo vibe and almost always focused on simple four-piece arrangements and the songwriter's voice and words.
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