If you’re coming at Craig Finn’s second solo album from a deep love of The Hold Steady and appreciation for 2012’s ‘Clear Heart Full Eyes’, then there’s lots to get your teeth into here. It mines the same, classic rock heartland sound of dusty, widescreen Americana that Finn’s been exploring for over twenty years, and his skill as a storyteller and scene-setter remains undiminished. But this time he’s dialled back the intensity (and the gung-ho optimism); these songs brood, slowly simmering without really reaching any kind of peak. And that’s exactly the problem.

Shorn of the bar-rock thump and fist-in-the-air defiance that characterises his best work, Finn’s gruff sing-speak voice falls a little flat, his characters’ sparkle lost in the murk. Written after the death of his mother, the heavy atmosphere and themes of perseverance and redemption are understandable. Introspection is a tough about turn from arena-sized sing-alongs, though, and these (sad) tales are left without the emotional heft – lyrically or musically – they require to truly hit home.


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