Album title ‘I Need a New War’ could be interpreted as a weary sigh from a veteran songwriter, but Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn is far from defeated on this his fourth solo record. Anyone who caught Finn live with Brian Fallon last month will be met with a much broader palette than just acoustic guitar and Finn’s gravelly vocal.
‘I Need a New War’ is sprinkled with warbling fairground organ, 50s backing vocalists and a brass section that evokes a smoky New York jazz club. Anchoring it all is Finn’s distinctive vocal, somewhere between Lou Reed and Elvis Costello, and the 47-year old’s characteristic storytelling style. The contrast between those sunshine backing vocals and the gritty lead vocal, singing of strife and upheaval, is the core of this album and what elevates it. Finn has described this as the final instalment of a trilogy of solo albums, lyrics telling the story of “people trying to respond to modern times, trying to keep pace with a world that might be moving faster than they are.”
With the vitriol flying back and forth at an ever-increasing rate, there’s a humanising effect to Finn’s focus on small struggles and day-to-day problems. When paired with the interesting and brass and vocal arrangements make for an affecting and uplifting album that’s wired into the breakneck pace of modern change.