This is so on-brand that I had to search my own blog just to make sure I haven’t already done this. Apparently I haven’t, but I remain skeptical. Anyway; The albums of the rock and roll band The Hold Steady, ranked in personal order from Worst to First:
(But before that, a quick aside on the idea of “worst.” The concern here is that when one reads the word “worst,” they replace it with “bad.” There’s not a one-to-one relationship between “worst” and “bad” at any time, but especially not in the context The Hold Steady, which, to date, has not put out an album unworthy of exploration. When reading the word “worst,” the interpretation should be that that, if one were to do a complete review of the band’s history, this is the album that should be revisited only after a solid base has been established. In the context of this post, “worst” means the charms of the record are more unique when compared to the rest of the catalog, perhaps a little harder to come by. “Least immediately essential” is closer to the true intention, but that doesn’t rhyme with “first.” “Worst” rhymes with “first,” so here we are.)
7) A Positive Rage (2009) – There is only one live album that really delivers, and it is Hey, Everything’s Fine by Limbeck. Astute readers will recognize that this is not that.
6) Teeth Dreams (2014) – This record contains two of the band’s best slow songs (“Almost Everything” and “Oaks”).
5) Stay Positive (2008) – Conventional wisdom says this is a controversial pick, but check the receipts. This record represents the point where the band shifted from making music that makes people want to drink dangerously to talking about making the kind of music that makes people want to drink dangerously. “Sequestered in Memphis” might be the best single the band ever put out. Years ago, I watched the band play “Lord, I am Discouraged”during a lightning storm and it changed my life.
4) Almost Killed Me (2004) – Hard to beat the one-two punch of “Positive Jam” and “The Swish.” One could make the argument that this album, not Boys and Girls in America, is the band at its most Springsteen, and it would only seem crazy until you remember that “Hostile, Mass” is on this album. Plus, this has the band’s best one-liners (personal favorite: “She said ‘ It’s good to see you back in bar band, baby.’ I said ‘It’s great to see you’re still in the bars”).
3) Heaven is Whenever (2010) – This album has more good songs on it than either of the last two, fight me. The run from “Hurricane J” to “Our Whole Lives” is unimpeachable. This record is the fulfillment of the scene-politics the band didn’t quite nail on Stay Positive. This is the Hold Steady aging gracefully. People don’t get enough credit for doing that.
2) Boys and Girls in America (2006) – This is an incredible album. So much so that I’d rather just leave this twitter joke here than write about it.
1) Separation Sunday (2005) – A perfect rock record with no bad songs. Put it in the concept album Hall of Fame.