Craig Finn – Faith in the Future
Faith in the Future is the second album from Craig Finn, frontman and songwriter of the Brooklyn-based rockers The Hold Steady. Taking a brief break from his bandmates, Finn travelled to Woodstock to record with The National and Josh Ritter associate Josh Kaufman. I don’t know whether the particular history of that town drew Finn there to record, but the record has plenty of nods to the New York state’s musical heritage. By no means however is Finn attempting to channel The Band on this record, the songs are infused with electronic flourishes and interesting synth textures placing it firmly in 2015.
The album jolts to life with Maggie I’ve Been Searching For My Son, an up tempo song with a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers vibe. Lyrically the song seems full of self doubt and with a chorus including the line “a kid went to the movies with a gun”, it’s sure to grab the listeners attention.
Roman Guitars follows with it’s eerie, electronic swathes of sound filling the speakers. They’re soon to be replaced by an unexpected but lovely brass section, heavy drums and the distinctive voice of Finn. Pitched somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, it certainly is an acquired taste and may be too guttural for some. He hasn’t employed any new vocal tricks for this solo outing which will be a welcome sign for his loyal fanbase.
Newmyer’s Roof, named after a friend of Finn’s apartment is more like what we have become accustomed to with The Hold Steady. A short, blue colour story wrapped in driving guitars and a grandness in its arrangement.
Probably the album’s highlight is Sarah, Calling From a Hotel. The music is a simple, acoustic arrangement, however the lyrics are heartbreaking with the female character of the song title seemingly in danger from a boyfriend/husband. The song finishes tantalisingly with the story unresolved.
Finn has said that he wanted this record to have a more stripped back sound and lyrically to reflect the “more mundane, slices of life’. Going to a Show is about going to concerts on your own as you don’t have to worry if your companion for the night is enjoying the show. This is something I have done many times and it’s good to relate to someone feeling the same.
The album is definitely not as bold as the sound made with his Hold Steady band mates. In the past they have been accused of throwing the kitchen sink into their productions. On the flip side it’s nowhere near as bleak in the lyrical or musical department than say Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. There’s plenty of musical variation present to create a vibrant collection of songs that keep the listener engaged from start to finish. Saint Peter Upside Down has a Motown inspired swagger to its arrangement that perks up the album towards its conclusion.
Craig Finn has made a record that may not grab your attention straight away but he’s produced an album that unfolds beautifully after a good few listens. When you reach the poignant final track I Was Doing Fine (Then a Few People Died) you will feel like you have been on a vivid journey through the less glamorous, but more interesting, side of American life.
Faith in the Future is released on Partisan Records on 11 September 2015
Words by Gary Page.