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Heaven Is Whenever

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

2010 album from the American Alt-Rock favorites. The album was produced by Dean Baltulonis and was recorded at Dreamland Recording Studios in Upstate NY and Wild Arctic Studios in Queens, NY. Singer Craig Finn says ''Heaven Is Whenever is about embracing suffering and finding reward in our everyday lives''. Piano and keys take a backseat to guitar on the new record, which also gets production help from guitarist Tad Kubler. Recorded in several smaller sessions spread out over a long period of time, the songs on Heaven Is Whenever received the benefit of being tested on the band's recent tours. As Finn says this allowed them to see what was working and what wasn't. Following the release of 2008's critically acclaimed Stay Positive, which gave the band it's highest Billboard chart position to date, The Hold Steady toured relentlessly, playing to some of their biggest audiences to date.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 4, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Vagrant
  • ASIN: B003AS9GJU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,586 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By David Bainbridge on May 4, 2010
Format: Audio CD
There's an expansiveness, a sense of space to this album which The Hold Steady hasn't ever allowed itself before. Several songs are familiarly "Hold Steadyish" with the loud, crunchy guitars fans are used to ("Hurricane J", "Rock Problems"), but the two openers, "The Sweet Part of the City" and "Soft in the Center", for instance are breezy, roomy rock numbers with Craig Finn sounding more at ease with himself than ever before. If their previous album, Stay Positive, is, as the band said, about aging with grace in a youth-oriented rock culture, Heaven Is Whenever sees The Hold Steady settling in as confident elder statesmen. At the same time, Finn is still giving props to his past and his predecessors -- "Barely Breathing" tells a fun story about hardcore easing into its late '80s post-heyday, for instance, and the lush "We Can Get Togehter" consist of a whirlwind of references that even the most astute afficianado will need three or more listens to completely catalog.

The musical branching-out reflected in this album might leave some fans running (or pining) for the more anthemic Separation Sunday or Boys and Girls in America -- and the band could probably have pulled off more-of-the-same with aplomb. But this seems to be a band comfortable enough with itself and knowledgable enough about its own abilities to want to continue to stretch, experiment and diversify. Much has been made in fan circles, for example, about the absence of a soaring stadium rock-style solo which Tad Kubler played at the end of "We Can Get Together" during the tour preceding the album's release. But the ballad-with-big-ending solo structure would have mirrored previous songs like "Lord, I'm Discouraged" from Stay Positive, and, let's face it, every '80s hair band did that. It gets old quick.
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The Hold Steady is continually confounding. The first album I picked up was Boys and Girls in America...its combination of Springsteen-esque song structures, punk attitudes, and intelligent lyrics pulled me in early and made me want more. So I moved onto their first album Almost Killed Me...which was radically different, except for the intelligent lyrics and attitude. Somehow, though, it all sounded like the same band...the identity at the core of the music was solid and likable. It's easy to say that the identity belongs to Craig Finn, since he's the singer and lyricist, but that would be doing the rest of the band a disservice. Tad Kubler's guitars do just as much to form the core of this band, and the rock solid yet versatile rhythm section provides incredible support.

Which brings us to the new album, Heaven Is Whenever. At first listen it seems almost radio-ready, with the Wilcoisms of "Sweet Part of the City" and the doo-wop rhythms of "We Can Get Together." But it's so much more than that. This is a varied album, ranging from rockers that will please any long time Hold Steady fan, like "Hurricane J" and "Soft in the Center," which is home to my current favorite line from the album ('You can't tell people what they wanna hear if you also want to tell the truth') to new sounds and experiments with lusher production (the aforementioned "Sweet Part of the City" and the album closer "A Slight Discomfort."

Since their last album,
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The Hold Steady make exciting albums. Listening to Separation Sunday even today sounds so in my face; a unique record and band. Their albums since then haven't quite matched that, but they have come close and contain thrilling songs. This album doesn't have the edge of the others. It still contains good tunes and I like it, but I don't love it. The Weekenders is their poppiest song to date, sounds like Green Day. Again, not a bad song, but it's no Cattle and the Creeping Things. My favorite song is the first, which introduces a new sound to their arsenal in a good way.
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Format: Vinyl Verified Purchase
I really like this album; I think The Hold Steady are progressing & maturing quite nicely.

Check out the vinyl if you want the best sound quality. The LP is thick and quiet. The sound is not nearly as compressed as the CD/MP3 but I can tell there is compression in the recording itself, not just the mastering. However this is the only crankable version of <Heaven is Whenever> on the market.
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I love this band. I've seen them three times now including on their opening date on the latest tour with the new lineup in support of this album. But I have to say Heaven is Whenever is a disappointment. After four successive great albums in which the band advanced brilliantly with each new release--improving the hookiness, complexity of storytelling, emotional density, and dramatic structure of its songs--the group went into a holding pattern releasing a live album from an older tour followed by this: a record well-worn THS gestures and riffs, buried under sludgy lifeless production, lacking the clarity, the punch, the hooks, the freshness and the drama that made their previous records joyous listening. Sounds like a band struggling with success and fighting to grow to some next stage. Let's hope they get there, but this sounds like a step closer to stalling out and breaking up than it sounds like a step into the future.
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