Stay Positive - The Hold Steady
Stay Positive Image

Universal acclaim - based on 34 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 92 Ratings

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  • Summary: This is the fourth album for the Brooklyn, New York, indie rock quintet.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. 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.
  2. 86
    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]
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 60
    The Hold Steady are mellowing, and it doesn't really suit them.

See all 34 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 56
  2. Negative: 9 out of 56
  1. TrevorZ.
    Jul 15, 2008
    So! Good! It's insane how consistently good this band is.
  2. EricN.
    Jul 25, 2008
    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
  3. ArchieS
    Jan 3, 2009
    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!!! Expand
  4. StephenL.
    Jul 17, 2008
    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. Expand
  5. 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 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+ Expand
  6. GuyH
    Jul 16, 2008
    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. Collapse
  7. BrianG.
    Jul 15, 2008
    Another gay album from a gay band.

See all 56 User Reviews