Boys And Girls In America

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.

x