• Record Label: Vagrant
  • Release Date: Jul 15, 2008
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 93 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 77 out of 93
  2. Negative: 12 out of 93

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  1. BrianG.
    Jul 15, 2008
    0
    Another gay album from a gay band.
  2. MichaelE.
    Jul 16, 2008
    3
    Boring, old-fashioned in a not-so-inspired way. Some call it "Dad Rock", but if you compare this to old albums that are similarly rooted in American traditions - Little Feat, the early Allman Brothers - you might get skeptical about all these enthusiastic reviews, I think. No strong melodies, no great hooks, al sounds a bit similar!
  3. LawrenceH.
    Jul 28, 2008
    3
    This is a really disappointing, exceedingly overrated cd. I agree entirely with Michael E. It is curious why so many beloved indie bands' fans won't embrace the music that their heroes so blatantly at best borrow, more realistically rip off. I hear Tom Petty, of course Bruce, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick all over this sprawling overly lengthy mess, but with vastly inferior songs. This is a really disappointing, exceedingly overrated cd. I agree entirely with Michael E. It is curious why so many beloved indie bands' fans won't embrace the music that their heroes so blatantly at best borrow, more realistically rip off. I hear Tom Petty, of course Bruce, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick all over this sprawling overly lengthy mess, but with vastly inferior songs. Nothing on this comes close to Thunder Road or Refugee, for instance. Also, Mr. Finn can't sing. Expand
  4. JsdonqW
    Oct 14, 2008
    10
    Great album... Constructive summer kicks things off perfectly and Slapped Actress continues the Hold Steady tradition of having epic finishing songs on albums.
  5. IsaacO.
    Jul 14, 2008
    9
    in reality, this is about an 8+, rather than 9. It's the weakest of all their albums. That said, it's still better than 90% of the rest of the music that has come out this year. or is likely to come out.
  6. Jimmy
    Jul 15, 2008
    10
    This is the most fun album the has been released this year.
  7. MichaelV.
    Jul 16, 2008
    10
    Had to build my own chill-out tent to recover from my first listen of "Stay Positive". Brilliant lyrically and musically, I may need an intervention.
  8. HarryS.
    Jul 18, 2008
    9
    Never cease to amaze.
  9. JakeB
    Aug 26, 2008
    9
    The Hold Steady proove yet again that they are one of the best bands in America. On Stay Posotive they tried to expand their sound and did so with great achievment. Althouthg some of the songs fall short, (Navy Sheets, Yeah Saphire) the rest are as good as it gets. The Bonus Tracks are also phenomenal arguably the best songs on the record.
  10. NickC.
    Aug 20, 2008
    3
    The Hold Steady tried to change things up and failed miserably. Stay Positive leaves very little to stay positive about. I would rather listen to the brokerdealer than this shit.
  11. tgb
    Sep 28, 2008
    2
    Weak riffs. 100% ordinary. I hate when bands put out a "dynamic coming out record" and it's just worn territory from the beaten path served to us on a silver platter with a sprig of parsley. Then the band stands by their work like its all original, or at least an authentic homage to the bands they would love to emulate, but it's just ends up a stupid fucking indie fart.
  12. ArchieS
    Jan 3, 2009
    10
    Wow what an album!!! This has to be one of the best albums i've ever heard. Consistently good, no amazing! No duds, serious. If you like good old fashion rock n roll you'll like this. If you like music lyrically dense and quality, you'll like this. If you love music, you'll love this!!!
  13. LoganF
    Dec 8, 2008
    8
    The Hold Steady reiterate themselves lyrically a lot, it's good for connection with a long time listener, but the tunes don't beat the last three albums.
  14. RickR.
    Jul 14, 2008
    8
    very good. a little too much sameness from boys and girls in america in the sound, and from separation Sunday in the lyrics. not really a huge step forward. but hey, they do what they do well. best tracks are 'lord I'm discouraged' (despite the cookie-cutter guitar solo), 'magazines', 'joke about jamaica', and 'slapped actress'.
  15. MattS.
    Jul 14, 2008
    9
    After three albums that all register a perfect 10 in my book, it's not all that surprising that these guys would eventually drop a 9. But when your band's weakest album is also one of the best releases of the year, you probably don't have too much to worry about. Really, my only complaint here is that Craig's characteristic sing/speak delivery sometimes leans a bit too After three albums that all register a perfect 10 in my book, it's not all that surprising that these guys would eventually drop a 9. But when your band's weakest album is also one of the best releases of the year, you probably don't have too much to worry about. Really, my only complaint here is that Craig's characteristic sing/speak delivery sometimes leans a bit too far in the sing direction (a bit further than on Boys and Girls, which I thought struck a perfect balance). That aside, his lyrics here are as incredible as ever, the band has never sounded better, and the album - hell, their entire catalogue to date - achieves greater cohesiveness and more consistency than most artists can sustain over the course of a single song. There is not a better rock n' roll band anywhere. Go see them live immediately. Expand
  16. Pat
    Jul 15, 2008
    9
    I don't know what the reviewer from Spin was smoking, because this is in no way mellower than any other Hold Steady release. It's a great followup to the absolutely classic Boys & Girls In America, and together they are an almost perfect 1-2 punch of good old-fashioned, roll-the-windows-down-and-crank-it rock. Great album.
  17. MarkS.
    Jul 15, 2008
    10
    Party on Wayne, party on Garth, party on America! "Stay Positive" brings back memories of all the times that my buddy and I prepared the party site in the woods - you know, the railroad ties, bonfire, kegger - and then ended up rocking in a teenage wasted utopia with all our high school friends. Bruce Springsteen was taking America by storm being on the cover of Time and Newsweek the same Party on Wayne, party on Garth, party on America! "Stay Positive" brings back memories of all the times that my buddy and I prepared the party site in the woods - you know, the railroad ties, bonfire, kegger - and then ended up rocking in a teenage wasted utopia with all our high school friends. Bruce Springsteen was taking America by storm being on the cover of Time and Newsweek the same week, and Jimmy Carter was dealing with a different type of oil crisis. Craig and company pay homage to all that and more, and have recorded their best album to date in doing so. Expand
  18. SandeepM.
    Jul 16, 2008
    1
    Warmed over Counting Crowes. Why are people falling all over themselves, for this?
  19. GuyH
    Jul 16, 2008
    7
    The title 'Stay Positive' is a bit of a risky one - what is conceived as a rallying call could end up sounding like a desperate plea if the album falls flat - and this release has a lot to live up to. 'Boys & Girls' was a fun listen and carved out a niche for the band as the feel good rockers who boasted untypically clever lyrics. The band seem a little too aware of The title 'Stay Positive' is a bit of a risky one - what is conceived as a rallying call could end up sounding like a desperate plea if the album falls flat - and this release has a lot to live up to. 'Boys & Girls' was a fun listen and carved out a niche for the band as the feel good rockers who boasted untypically clever lyrics. The band seem a little too aware of this on the opening two tracks which follow the blueprint established on 'Boys & Girls' a little too closely. The next two songs throw a lot of new ideas in the mix but aren't 100% successful. At this point on my first listen I was a little worried - not one of these songs is a patch on the first 4 songs that opened the last album. 'Lord...' marks the breakthrough - it is a steady, stately slow burner that boasts an awesome guitar solo that ignites the album. The next three songs continue the winning run - 'Sapphire' has a mean guitar sound, 'Crosses' would have probably been the best song on the recent Gutter Twins album and the title track contains this album's great impassioned (and slightly comical) Finn vocal. The quality dips slightly on 'Magazines' - but it is still a catchy rocker with those strange part punk, part muppet guest vocals on the chorus. 'Stay Positive' then rallies for a big 1-2 finish. 'Jamaica' is a bit kitchen sink with its Specials organ, rambling piano, voice box solo and the rest but it is theatrical in a good way and works pretty well. Even more successful is the stunning 'Actress'. It is the grandest of grand finales and recalls the more dramatic moments from last year's Okkervil River album 'The Stage Names'. Despite 'Stay Positive's imperfections I still believe this is exactly the sort of album they needed to release after their breakthrough - this is no weak retread and if some of the experiments don't quite come off you still have to applaud The Hold Steady for their positive ambition. Expand
  20. MaxC.
    Jul 16, 2008
    9
    Not their best but any Hold Steady record is better than just about any non-Hold Steady record these days.
  21. DavidA.
    Jul 16, 2008
    8
    I find it less consistent than their previous 2 efforts, but it is still a great album. You can tell they are trying new things and attempting to stay fresh. It works in some areas, and doesn't in others. The key to them has always been the lyrics, and Craig Finn has once again written some great songs.
  22. MycroftW.
    Jul 17, 2008
    9
    One of the most likable bands out there shows consistency with another triumph. The Hold Steady is well on the way to become the Drive By Truckers of the big city.
  23. StephenL.
    Jul 17, 2008
    9
    Really, really amazing. Constructive Summer might be one of the best songs I've heard in a long, long time. Classic rock. Go buy or at least download. The experience will justify itself.
  24. StaashB
    Jul 18, 2008
    3
    Sounds like the Counting Crows to me. Should be added to the "Stuff White People Like" blog.
  25. RobertH.
    Jul 19, 2008
    2
    Just don't understand all the praise.
  26. EricN.
    Jul 25, 2008
    10
    Stay Positive is my favourite The Hold Steady album, even better than Separation Sunday and that's saying something. I like the maturity and world-weariness in Craig Finn's voice this time around and the band has never been tighter. Franz Nicolay's keyboards, rather than overpowering the mix like they did on Boys and Girls complement the songs so well. Anyone who comments Stay Positive is my favourite The Hold Steady album, even better than Separation Sunday and that's saying something. I like the maturity and world-weariness in Craig Finn's voice this time around and the band has never been tighter. Franz Nicolay's keyboards, rather than overpowering the mix like they did on Boys and Girls complement the songs so well. Anyone who comments that the songs all sound the same just haven't spent any time with this album. The variety of music here is amazing. I was listening to some old Lifter Puller tunes yesterday -- and to see where Finn started out and where he is today is like watching an epic movie unfold. Simply outstanding. If you've never heard this band, pick up this album, listen to it 3-4 times with the lyrics in hand and prepare to be swept away. You will be a fan for life. Expand
  27. Joe
    Jul 27, 2008
    9
    I officially consider the Hold Steady my favorite modern band. There has been a pretty big void for me since Weezer stopped making real songs. The album is everything you want in an album. Catchy, unpretentious, smart, modern, clever, and its actually pretty rockin'. I have never considered anyone pop/rock artist a better lyricist than Elvis Costello but a few more albums like this I officially consider the Hold Steady my favorite modern band. There has been a pretty big void for me since Weezer stopped making real songs. The album is everything you want in an album. Catchy, unpretentious, smart, modern, clever, and its actually pretty rockin'. I have never considered anyone pop/rock artist a better lyricist than Elvis Costello but a few more albums like this and I would be comfortable saying that. I can't imagine giving any album a 10 besides Abbey Road or My Aim is True but this is about the closest thing to it. Expand
  28. SteveO
    Aug 1, 2008
    7
    It's listenable, but i agree... we've all heard this stuff before! Same old power chords, same old, same old. Try something new please!
  29. JordanS.
    Aug 11, 2008
    10
    Best album of the year so far.
  30. bda
    Aug 12, 2008
    8
    Positive: Finn's lyrics are as good as ever, the dearth of Minnesota references notwithstanding. Not so positive: Like Boys and Girls in America, there's too much keyboard.
  31. BasV.
    Aug 17, 2008
    9
    Kick ass record! The hard part is making it look so easy.
  32. Chester
    Aug 21, 2008
    6
    Love the Hold Steady. Love all of their past albums. Love their live show. However, this album is mediocre at best.
  33. TonyP
    Aug 28, 2008
    9
    Forget the naysayers - this is the best album of the year so far from a fantastic live band who have no airs and graces - they just make great rock music with great stories.
  34. LeahT.
    Aug 29, 2008
    5
    Not what it's cracked up to be. A lot of literal lyrics and repetitive chords. Sorry, but I expected something more original and creative. The Hold Steady has this "we Rock" arrogant attitude that makes this all the worse. Skip it.
  35. StephenC
    Sep 3, 2008
    10
    I'm sorry nut the Hold Steady have not tried to change one thing on this album.. They've continued with their tried and tested form and it works brilliantly. The song writing is magnificent and the story telling on 'Sequested In Memphis' is staggering. If these are classed as "boring and overrated" then you need to have a big long look at your life, because something I'm sorry nut the Hold Steady have not tried to change one thing on this album.. They've continued with their tried and tested form and it works brilliantly. The song writing is magnificent and the story telling on 'Sequested In Memphis' is staggering. If these are classed as "boring and overrated" then you need to have a big long look at your life, because something is wrong with you. Expand
  36. LesH
    Mar 17, 2009
    5
    But for how heralded these guys are
  37. JayD
    Oct 14, 2008
    10
    Album of the year, without doubt. Also, Brendan D is a 'tard. "seminally overrated"? Get over yourself.
  38. PJB
    Dec 12, 2008
    4
    I can't believe 4 publications gave this album a perfect score. Entertainment Weekly i can understand only because they know nothing and are run by the industry, but I am sick and tired of the British music press. They are always childish and quick to praise nearly any band as the greatest thing ever, but it seems this year they have really pulled out all the stops. If you look at I can't believe 4 publications gave this album a perfect score. Entertainment Weekly i can understand only because they know nothing and are run by the industry, but I am sick and tired of the British music press. They are always childish and quick to praise nearly any band as the greatest thing ever, but it seems this year they have really pulled out all the stops. If you look at almost any album in the best of 2008 list on metacritic, i would bet that one of the higher ratings is from a British mag (Uncut, Mojo, Q, The Guardian, the Observer). Welcome to Mali, London Zoo, Fed, Dear Science, For Emma Forever Ago, Fleet Foxes, and Dig Lazurus Dig ALL have perfect scores from one of these publications. How often do you see a perfect score from allmusic? Almost NEVER, and yet these sources have multiple perfect scores every year. I think metacritic should weigh these scores lower, because a perfect score obviously means less across the pond. Oh, and yeah, this Hold Steady album is a raging disappointment. Worse than their all three of their previous albums. Expand
  39. AndrewC
    Dec 12, 2008
    9
    Let's agree these guys are good at one thing, old fashioned rocking. This isn't groundbreaking or anything incredibly different. I can always count on these guys for a great rock record and amazing lyrics. This is probably my favorite record they've released. Just too solid all the way through. No skippers! Great record!!
  40. GuillaumeB
    Dec 23, 2008
    9
    The Hold Steady is why good old simple rocking goods, and then some, are still around. And they deserve a damn big round of applause for their work.
  41. JoeyjojoS.
    Jul 14, 2008
    9
    Another outstanding album from the best band out there
  42. TrevorZ.
    Jul 15, 2008
    10
    So! Good! It's insane how consistently good this band is.
  43. ChrisK
    Jul 15, 2008
    10
    Another brilliant album. "Separation Sunday" is still my favorite, but this one is just as killer.
  44. JohnH.
    Jul 17, 2008
    10
    These guys are incredible - and this album in particular kicks ass!
  45. GinaS.
    Jul 17, 2008
    10
    Great songs! The album has an overall epic feeling to it. It rocks, with some great guitar solos thrown in. They remind me a lot of R.E.M., on their latest, Accelerate, with some Bruce Springsteen and the E- street Band and a sprinkling of Randy Neuman thrown in for good measure. Definately one of the best albums of the year! Pay attention to the lyrics, as a haunting story unfolds. I Great songs! The album has an overall epic feeling to it. It rocks, with some great guitar solos thrown in. They remind me a lot of R.E.M., on their latest, Accelerate, with some Bruce Springsteen and the E- street Band and a sprinkling of Randy Neuman thrown in for good measure. Definately one of the best albums of the year! Pay attention to the lyrics, as a haunting story unfolds. I find it impossible to find anything negative about "Stay Positive". We gotta stay positive! Expand
  46. JasonJ
    Jul 18, 2008
    10
    The Hold Steady is not just a band. They are a conceptual project whose aim is nothing less than a complete renovation of what it means to believe in this day and age. Through the sheer strength of their will and talent, they are able to summon everyone from Springsteen, to Zep, even .38 Special, all without a hint of irony. They're actually sincere; and therein lies the magic. You The Hold Steady is not just a band. They are a conceptual project whose aim is nothing less than a complete renovation of what it means to believe in this day and age. Through the sheer strength of their will and talent, they are able to summon everyone from Springsteen, to Zep, even .38 Special, all without a hint of irony. They're actually sincere; and therein lies the magic. You are missing the point if you are hung up on the so-called "classic rock" aspects of their sound. They cannot logically be classic rock because they are making this music NOW! And I have to say, it couldn't be more refreshing. This is probably their best record, but the last three were also sickeningly good. Warning: listening to them will make it hard to listen to other bands. Expand
  47. BrianR.
    Jul 18, 2008
    10
    The Hold Steady went for a bigger deeper sound than on previous albums. It pays off on almost every song.
  48. ToddG.
    Jul 21, 2008
    9
    This album is really touching in a great way. The guy (Michael E) who mentioned Little Feat and Allman Brothers sounds like a typical jam band lover. THe problem with the overwhelming jam band scene is, simply put, they can't write decent songs with strong lyrics. What I don't understand is most of them idolize Bob Dylan yet none of them can write lyrics even close to Bob Dylan. This album is really touching in a great way. The guy (Michael E) who mentioned Little Feat and Allman Brothers sounds like a typical jam band lover. THe problem with the overwhelming jam band scene is, simply put, they can't write decent songs with strong lyrics. What I don't understand is most of them idolize Bob Dylan yet none of them can write lyrics even close to Bob Dylan. Craig Finn on the other hand writes better lyrics in almost any one song then half these jam bands do in an entire album. I guess it really comes down to what you like in music. Senseless noodling or great songs with really excellent meaningful lyrics. That is why I love the Hold Steady and am sick to dead with washed up jam bands! Listen to this cd if love great music with even better lyrics. Expand
  49. JoshL.
    Jul 28, 2008
    10
    One of the best albums of the year!
  50. BrendanD
    Aug 11, 2008
    1
    This is exactly what Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky" would've been if Tweedy didn't know how to catch us off-guard. What a horrible record from one of the most seminally overrated bands in the world.
  51. CharlieQ.
    Aug 18, 2008
    9
    This is one of the years top albums. The storytelling quality of the lyrics is riveting. The music, while nothing new, is played with a heartfelt intensity that's impossible to deny. There's a very natural & instinctive feel about the whole album. It's a pure rock album which wasn't made for the masses, but should appeal to them.
  52. demost
    Dec 27, 2008
    9
    The Hold Steady has consistently hit the mark since Separation Sunday and Stay Positive is certainly no exception. The stories are rich and the melodies are more mature than previous albums. The Hold Steady is this generation's Springsteen, while casting a more realistic reflection of the time.
  53. SteveS
    Dec 29, 2008
    10
    THS come through with not only the best rock album of 2008, but one of the finest this century.
  54. Sep 3, 2010
    8
    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 steadily themselves. Not as exciting, however, than some previous albums.
  55. Mar 28, 2011
    8
    This 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 heThis 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+ Collapse
  56. j30
    Oct 28, 2011
    9
    Just 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.
Metascore
85

Universal acclaim - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Despite some subtle new touches --a harpsichord, a banjo, light strings--the sound proposes constancy.