Review: Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes


Artist: Craig Finn
Album: Clear Heart Full Eyes
Genre: Americana/Alt-Country
Album: Vagrant

Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and Lifter Puller is known for crafting a sprawling mythos centered around the mythologized Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, with his rock ‘n’ roll yarns spanning the entire Midwest and the occasional trip down to Florida. This artful mythology is broken up into songs which are character centered vignettes. The characters that Finn has created find themselves, more often than not, celebrating life and on a journey towards self discovery. Within his vignettes Finn has always imbued a sense of hope.

However, with his first solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, Finn weaves vignettes focused on characters who are lost, who are frustrated, with  little hope to be found amongst the album’s 11 tracks. The characters that Finn weaves throughout Clear Heart Full Eyes could almost be seen as the older, but in no way wiser, versions of the bratty, beer swilling characters he crafted in The Hold Steady.These characters now in their thirties, their forties are faced with the obligation to grow up but lost at how to go about doing so.

Finn’s characteristic liquor sweetened vocals are accompanied by  varied instrumentation that is able to shift from bright electric riffs to a lonesome acoustic guitar, providing a greater emotional depth to the lyrics that Finn so artfully emotes.

Whereas with The Hold Steady Finn packed each track with as many nods and homages to musicians he admired and the culture that raised him, Clear Hearts Full Eyes is almost devoid of this namedropping. The track “No Future” comes the closet to Finn’s zealous  pop culture praising allusions naming Freddie Mercury and Johnny Rotten.

Among the album’s 11 tracks two of the vignettes that Finn have crafted stand out among the others, “Jackson” and “Balcony.” “Jackson” focuses on three individuals-Jackson, the narrator and Stephanie-that spend August through November in a hotel room, waiting till the trouble blows over. The instrumentation is upbeat featuring biting electric guitar, “waa-waas” and bright “tsk, tsks” from the drums.”Balcony” is an alt-country ballad with a twangy electric guitar, pedal steel and just enough drums to provide some weight to the song. The track’s narrative is some of Finn’s strongest with visual descriptions like “the dude with the long fingernails/I don’t think I trust him all that much,” “I looked up to see the moon/and I saw you and him out on the balcony/it was the same thing that you did to me” and “it costs ten dollars for a taxi/it costs whole lot more to fall in love” that snag themselves into your memory.

Finn has crafted some of the most realistic, emotionally compelling songs with Clear Hearts Full Eyes, solidifying his position among the greatest of the bar stool poets.

Score: 9/10
Review written by: Ethan Merrick

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  • Guest

    Get the album title correct before you review it dude