In this CD cover image released by Vagrant, the latest...

In this CD cover image released by Vagrant, the latest by The Hold Steady, "Heaven is Whenever," is shown. (AP Photo/Chely Wright) Credit: AP Photo/

(Vagrant) sounds like The Hold Steady may think being "America's best bar band" is just fine. With the departure of keyboardist Franz Nicolay, things don't sound nearly as grand - shifting their balance of influences away from stadium-rocking Springsteen toward club-friendly Replacements. Nevertheless, "Hurricane J" is one of the year's most memorable indie rockers, while "Our Whole Lives" shows they haven't given up on amping-up Springsteen's "Rosalita" just yet, and the massive "Slight Discomfort" shows all the "Stay Positive" ambition isn't gone. Maybe this is the sound of regrouping.


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