Stay Positive

  • Record Label: Vagrant
  • Release Date: Jul 15, 2008

Universal acclaim - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. It is not only the Hold Steady's best record, but acts as a culmination of all of the ideas, stories, musical paths and character journeys that they've so pointedly led us down before.
  2. Entertainment Weekly
    Damn if an already nearly perfect album doesn't, with these bonus tracks, gets a little better itself. [18 Jul 2008, p.64]
  3. Stay Positive is a true testament that good music will always prevail. One can only hope that a band like this will continue to make music for years and years to come because we desperately need it.
  4. Stay Positive not only confirms The Hold Steady’s status as one of the best rock’n’roll bands in the world, but establishes them as one of its most important too.
  5. They turn critics into gibbering wrecks unable to write proper reviews and leave us forced to just string together our favourite lyrics like a damn teenage girl scribbles Tokio Hotel choruses onto her bed headboard. But, y’know. Hairier.
  6. They've resurrected with this, their fourth album, the seemingly outmoded concept that with enough nurturing and faith, a band - and by extension it's audience - can grow into a beautiful thing.
  7. The sound is more varied and lighter on its feet with touches of harpsichord and banjo but anchored by the Hold Steady's signature: thick, humid arena rock, a high-pressure system of cresting guitars and pianos that injects these dramas with tension and embraces all their contradictions and ambiguities.
  8. Filter
    Self-referential, poetic, spoken-sung performances in dirty beer halls, Midwest anthems that make everyone raise those beers in the beer halls. [Summer 2008, p.92]
  9. While they continue to prove themselves a more convincing classic rock act than should be possible in 2008, there's a tension in this album's lyrics between old-fashioned storytelling and breaking down the fourth wall. Stay Positive is their mostly successful bid to have it both ways.
  10. A record made for blasting and getting blasted, Stay Positive makes it easy to follow through on its title.
  11. 'Stay Positive' nails the travails of the aging rock band harder than 'Start Me Up' because it's about fans, and 'Constructive Summer' craftily confuses different ways to get hammered.
  12. Ultimately, Stay Positive achieves the admirable feat of being a record you can listen closely to or rock out to, equally adaptable to late-night wallowing and the party at the water tower.
  13. Despite some subtle new touches --a harpsichord, a banjo, light strings--the sound proposes constancy.
  14. Stay Positive offers up plenty of reasons to let go and believe.
  15. At times, the bloodlust in Craig Finn's growl gets too thirsty. But it's the album's closing lyric - "Man, we make our own movies" - that reveals the secret of this band's special powers.
  16. Brooklyn's working class heroes have stepped up their musicality (harpsichord is featured on "One for the Cutters") and melodic balladry ("Lord, I'm Discouraged" is an aching prayer), while still providing their signature cacophonous anthems.
  17. If you know what's good for you, however, you'll drink the whole album in, because intelligently constructed and musically thrilling records like this are a rare, rare find.
  18. Reliability is the Hold Steady's calling card, and on Stay Positive they don't stray far from the tried-and-tested combination of orthodox guitar rock and gritty, observational lyrics.
  19. While Stay Positive might find Finn in existential contemplation of his past, present and future, thankfully it doesn’t keep him away from his observational wisdom in recounting tales of hedonism, naivety, drugs and alcohol in small town America.
  20. The music is more rousing than ever; the power chords and hair-metal wanks spiked with singalong chants and new instrumental flavors.
  21. Considering most of the album is spent describing what life’s like for the rest of us, it’s surprising Stay Positive ends on a relatively self-focused note, courtesy of album highlight “Slapped Actress.”
  22. Stay Positive is an optimistic record that continues Finn's search for a sense of place.
  23. Suffice to say, then, if you’ve enjoyed the increasingly accessible path The Hold Steady’s taken over the last four years--and, frankly, if you like raising beers, pumping fists and yelling out choice phrases, how could you not?--then you’ll find Stay Positive nearly flawless.
  24. As you might expect from a bunch of Springsteen-loving misfits, Stay Positive is delivered with a generous amount of their now trademark skewed cynicism.
  25. Mojo
    Stay Positive has consistently stronger material than its preecessors and, perhaps more importantly, is sequenced to maximum efficacy. [Aug 2008, p.100]
  26. Q Magazine
    Stay Positive isn't so much of an instant gratification, but a record that reveals more with each listen. [Aug 2008, p.131]
  27. This is the band’s most mature and consistent record yet.
  28. Under The Radar
    A rousing and contemplative work that's informed by contradictory sensations. [Fall 2008, p.81]
  29. Blender
    Finn has been sharper and funnier before, and their fast-and-down-the-middle rock has gotten more experimental, which isn't the same as better. But it's still a pretty good way to spend 45 minutes. [Aug 2008, p.86]
  30. Though the result doesn't quite reach the rarefied heights of 2005's Separation Sunday or the following year's nearly equally great follow-up, Boys and Girls in America, it fits nicely alongside LCD Soundsystem's "Sound of Silver" and the National's "Boxer" as a poignant example of veteran artists maturing gracefully, capturing that feeling you get just after the peak, when you've started noticing the decline but haven't figured out what to do about it yet.
  31. The problem with Stay Positive is that all the great songs subtly exhibit a kind of fin-de-siècle exhaustion, while the obvious attempts to break out of the old ways fall flat.
  32. 60
    The Hold Steady are mellowing, and it doesn't really suit them.
  33. Stay Positive is the most sophisticated and erudite THS have ever sounded, and that's a mixed blessing.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 94 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 43 out of 56
  2. Negative: 9 out of 56
  1. j30
    Oct 28, 2011
    Just some awesome American Rock music with guitars galore. Classic Rock bands like Bruce Springsteen come to mind while listening to thisJust some awesome American Rock music with guitars galore. Classic Rock bands like Bruce Springsteen come to mind while listening to this record. I can't recommend this enough. Full Review »
  2. Mar 28, 2011
    This is rock and roll. The Hold Steady remind me a lot of Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones and you can really understand thoseThis is rock and roll. The Hold Steady remind me a lot of Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones and you can really understand those comparisons once you listen to this album. Starts off with a bang with "Constructive Summer" and then goes to "Sequestered In Memphis" which is easily the stand out track. Craig Finn doesn't really sing, but talks rhythmically and sometimes yells but he tells a story in each track. He, nevertheless, has a great voice and the back up vocals come perfectly at times. The guitar solos in this album feel like Led Zeppelin guitar solos. All In All, Stay Positive mixes old rock and roll with modern garage punk rock and it sounds really great. B+ Full Review »
  3. Sep 3, 2010
    A bit of a change for the Hold Steady. Putting their feet in Brooklyn, they are adapting to a little New York sound but remain steadilyA bit of a change for the Hold Steady. Putting their feet in Brooklyn, they are adapting to a little New York sound but remain steadily themselves. Not as exciting, however, than some previous albums. Full Review »