One of the few bands that had me at their first note is The Hold Steady. I first heard them on a "song of the day" podcast from KEXP, a wonderful listener-supported radio station out of Seattle. The song they played that day back in mid-2006 was "Stevie Nix," off of 2005's Separation Sunday. Love at first listen.
You can sort of describe The Hold Steady as Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band meets Thin Lizzy. Only they are originally from Minneapolis, and often reference the land of 10,000 lakes in their music. Their music also tells stories about addiction, recovery, and reconciling sinful behavior with a Christian upbringing. Some have described their music as "literate;" indeed, lead singer Craig Finn looks like the nerd that was the teaching assistant for your third year comparative literature class. But you can actually hear literary references in their songwriting. For example, the first track off of their superb 2006 release, "Stuck Between Stations:"
There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise is right.
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.
The second line is directly out of the classic "On the Road," by Jack Keroac. Awesome.
And their live shows rock harder than most metal shows that I have been to. If you can go to only one show this year, make sure that it is a Hold Steady show. I just looked at their web site and their current tour has no Canadian stops. Grrrrrr!
I bring up The Hold Steady because their new release Stay Positive is officially out today, and will hopefully be in stores in Toronto by tomorrow. I know this album leaked months ago, but this is one album that I know I want to buy, so I stayed away from leaked copies. I have heard one track, "One for the Cutters," and it is fantastic. Ben Nichols of Lucero, another band that rocks the house, lends backup vocal on several tracks. You can hear some of the new tracks on The Hold Steady's MySpace page. Their other three albums are also available on iTunes and eMusic. I highly recommend you get them all.
Buy:Separation Sunday (2005)