Craig Finn (frontman of the Hold Steady) released a Legacy of Rentals, his fifth solo album. The album was produced by fellow collaborator, Josh Kaufman. The album thematically delivers on issues on memories, death, and how things change over time. Somber, yet depressing but if you’re in the mood for that kind of thing this is the album for you. Finn wants to place emphasis on how each of us are remembered in our lives. How we are remembered and how will be remembered, sort of like a eulogy.
Most of the album is done in spoken word style backed by a full-on band. The lead single “Messing with the Settings” sets the mellow lull of Rentals. Finn sings, “Sundown, it feels like I’m riding a train I’m not on”. The song is backed by a violin string section, piano, and female vocals. All setting this up as a melancholic letter to death.
Working in Buffalo, NY and the Midwest are cheekily mentioned in the second song in “The Amarillo Kid”. “They gifted me a decent place to live/and a pistol and a nickname/I’m the Amarillo Kid.” Driving in winter weather in Buffalo is referenced by the Boston born (although he spent most of his life growing up in Minnesota). Finn pays homage to the rough winters of Western New York and laments about the Buffalo blues, as if he was born there. Finn plays nomad at best and details his autobiography with memories of a girl Diana and his band, The Hold Steady, in tow all in this particular song.
Saxophone breathes some life into “Birthdays” and delves into the Bruce Springsteen blues rock chic with a look at years back when he turned a year older. He croons, “It’s nice to know that there’s somewhere in this world that has always known me” and is a tribute to family and friends—the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is the joyous peak in Rentals, expect the rest of the album to dive into an oblivion of sadness.
It was difficult getting through this album on a happy note, but that wasn’t Finn’s intentions. His intentions were to bring those hard times to the surface. The times we have a difficult time talking about, getting through the bad times to get to the good times? Maybe. But this is one hell of a depressing way to look at life.