Craig Finn - We All Want The Same Things

by Jim Cunnar Rating:9 Release Date:2017-03-24

Craig Finn, quite simply, is a one hell of a story teller.  First with Lifter Puller, then as the vocalist for The Hold Steady, he has fed us stories of broken but approachable characters who struggle with all kinds of afflictions, especially those which are put into one’s body.  While The Hold Steady’s output has slowed the last few years, Finn has been busy as a solo artist, releasing his debut Clear Heart Full Eyes in 2012 and Faith In The Future in 2015.  This week, he releases We All Want The Same Things, a spectacularly mature album which arguably is the pinnacle of his career.

Lyrically, WAWTST continues down the rabbit hole of complex relationships between users and dealers, friends and lovers, humans and their gods. WAWTST kicks off with “Jester & June”, a reflective song about days past of drug deals and arrests, told from the perspective of a middle age protagonist who longingly holds onto the fact that “They used to call us Jester & June”.  It’s poignant and, frankly, sweet.  We all have those kinds of memories.

Follow up “Preludes” has Craig returning to St. Paul, finding that “the parking lot scene still existed but not without problems” .  “Ninety Bucks” describes a girl drinking “Popov from a paper cup, like she’s trying to burn her insides clean”, which is one hell of a visual. 

The highlights of the album come later.  The achingly gorgeous “God In Chicago”, a song about an overdose and the aftermath, has Finn telling a story in an open mic way but beautifully singing the chorus. “It Hits When It Hits” may be the song which best epitomizes Finn’s story-telling journey, a hopeful song about love and prayer and God - “The one thing I’ve heard about love, is it hits when it hits”.  It does, that is for sure.

Finn’s band, The Uptown Controllers, complement his lyrical stylings perfectly.  Piano, organ, brass and woodwinds are used in just the right places, offsetting the core of of guitar/bass/drums. This album can rock (“Tracking Shots”) but can be gentle as well (“God In Chicago”) and this is testament to the growth of Finn as a musician. WAWTST feels like it’s the album Finn has been striving to make, a perfect balance of sharp and soft which is exactly what his stories portray.

We All Want The Same Things is a brilliant work, a must buy and is one of the highlights of 2017 so far.  

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