Craig Finn's debut solo album 'Clear Heart Full Eyes' is streaming in advance of its release date


Thankfully, Clear Heart Full Eyes, the debut solo album from the Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn, doesn't signify a fracture between him and his regular bandmates. It just represents a temporary musical diversion for Finn from the wild, late-night hi-jinks that are prominently featured in his celebrated main band. And while Finn's familiar talk/sing vocal style remains the focus of his solo songs, the musical makeup of the tracks are quite a departure for Finn. The new tracks sway from restless blues, to plaintive, countrified Americana, to relaxed, keyboard-laden pop songs. Some of these new numbers certainly work better than others, but Finn's dedicated fans are unquestionably excited about the prospect of hearing him play these solo songs live, as his upcoming Triple Rock show in February sold-out weeks ago.

You can get a preview of what you can expect from Finn's solo show, as NPR is currently streaming Clear Heart Full Eyes in its entirety in advance of its official release date on January 24th. The 11-track record runs for 44-minutes, and reflects a far more restrained Finn, who dials down on the bombast featured throughout his former boisterous, bar-band output in favor of more pensive, reflective numbers. The bluesy "Apollo Bay" opens the album with Craig stating that "My head was really hurting," and indeed much of the record has a real hushed, hungover sound and feel to it.

But that doesn't mean that the songs lose their impact or effectiveness, as Finn is free to once again sing about religion, redemption, and what makes him nervous, but this time he doesn't have to shout in order to be heard. Again, this new approach works better for some songs (the anthemic "No Future" and the jaunty introspection of "Terrified Eyes") than it does for others (the preachy "New Friend Jesus" and the meandering, Tom Petty-lite of "When No One's Watching"), but at least Finn is challenging himself by trying something new, and isn't going through the formulaic arena-rock motions that have plagued the last couple Hold Steady records.

How these new songs are carried off live, and with what type of backing band, remains to be seen, but given Finn's dynamic stage presence and excitable behavior, I'm sure these somewhat sedate new songs will be given a welcome jolt in a live setting. The performance should also feature plenty of surprises for Twin Cities music fans who Finn continues to feel a deep connection to. No matter how it all goes down, it will certainly be a real treat to see Craig Finn at the Triple Rock once again, a venue that his exalted old band, Lifter Puller, helped open back in 2003.

Craig Finn 2012 U.S. Tour Dates

02-01 Dallas, TX - Club Dada
02-02 Oklahoma City, OK - The Conservatory
02-03 Omaha, NE - Slowdown
02-04 Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
02-06 Iowa City, IA - The Mill
02-07 Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
02-08 Detroit, MI - The Lager House
02-09 Columbus, OH - The Basement
02-10 St Louis, MO - Off Broadway
02-11 Kansas City, MO - Record Bar
02-13 Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
02-19 San Diego, CA - Casbah
02-20 Los Angeles, CA - Troubadour
02-23 Portland, OR - The Doug Fir Lounge
02-24 Seattle, WA - The Crocodile

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