Article by Anna Walsh
Far from the bombast of The Hold Steady’s hard-partying sound, frontman Craig Finn opens his latest solo album with the mesmerizing riff on “Blankets”. “I Need A New War” is the last in a trilogy of work from Finn that began in 2015 with “Faith in the Future”, when Finn was only just starting to get his feet wet as a solo artist. Since then, he expanded his sound immensely with 2017’s “We All Want the Same Things”, and now offers up “I Need A New War”, which shines both as a phenomenal standalone record and an elegant conclusion to the trilogy.
As is often the case, Finn’s ability to turn the minutiae of everyday life into poetic yet cutting lyrics are at the center of this album. Stories of people muddling through lives in a world that is less than kind can be found on every track. Finn lends a quiet dignity to these characters – Carmen, who keeps showing up to work to support a deadbeat boyfriend, Francis – who is struggling to pay the rent in a city where costs are always rising, or any of the nameless others who have survived war, lost lovers, and accidents too uncomfortable to discuss. The strict attention paid to the average makes “I Need a New War” outright political, but profound and fitting for the turbulence of modern day.
Finn leans more heavily on the We All Want the Same Things Band than he has on previous albums, and it pays off. The big brass on “Indications” or the sweet backing vocals on “Something To Hope For” are two great examples where Finn’s lyrics and vocal style are bettered by his band. Songs go slower on “I Need a New War”, but have more soul. An album with just the right balance of heartbreak and hope, Finn has crafted yet another tour de force.
“I Need A New War” is out now on Partisan Records.