Over two albums, the Hold Steady have staked their claim as America's best bar band, pulling ragged glory from boozy riffage and the oddly gripping splutters of frontman-storyteller Craig Finn. Boys and Girls in America is a bit looser and brighter than last year's Separation Sunday, and it eschews that album's concept-record staging in favor of tales of l-o-v-e in the U.S.A. featuring rock kids, troubled girls and substance abuse, among other Finn standby topics. On songs like "Chips Ahoy!" —a busted romance set at a racetrack —Finn operates like an indie-rock Kerouac, pulling local color, touching details and much more from the dumping ground of his brain. Boys is a sweet thing: fist-pumpable rock with brains, heart and words worth coming back to.