The Hold Steady ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ (Vagrant)
On their fifth album (and first without keyboard player Franz Nicolay since 2004’s debut), the Midwest’s ambassadors to Brooklyn hone their ballsy bar-band philosophizing with a focus worthy of CSI. The sound is too slick by half, but Craig Finn’s rhymes still resonate: “Ain’t it sad about these metro guys? / Don’t it hurt to watch them moisturize? / They’re never funny / And they’re all so scared to die.” (Jay-Z should be so precise.) But the music surely cranks far harder live.