The Hold Steady 

This year's Heaven Is Whenever is probably the worst of the five albums that the Hold Steady has released, but who cares? It's brimming with monster rock hooks and smartest-guy-in-the-room lyrics that have made the Brooklyn — by way of Twin Cities — band one of the most exciting acts of the past decade. Frontman Craig Finn is writing more intimate, less lyrically dense songs these days. He used to toss off paragraphs of clever observations about drug deals at grocery stores; on Heaven, he's more interested in zeroing in on truisms. It's not gonna be like in romantic comedies, he sings on "The Weekenders." In the end, I bet no one learns a lesson. Have you ever heard anything truer than that?

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