Over his songwriting career, Craig Finn's developed a reliably literary style. The thematic throughlines of his catalog demand a close reading and lend themselves to annotations; you could make a map out of mentions from his discography (in fact, it's been done).
While his Hold Steady characters were wild and wrecked, the concerns have changed on his latest solo releases, 2015's Faith In The Future and 2017's We All Want The Same Things. Recorded with Josh Kaufman and Joe Russo and engineered by D. James Goodwin, Finn calls I Need A New War the third part of a trilogy.
"The three albums together look at the same people, but from different angles," Finn writes. "The characters in the songs on this record, and the last two, are trying to keep up and keep their heads above water."
I Need A New War grapples with consequence. Characters – often referred to by first name – reckon with the lives they've built, reflecting on the circumstances that put them in those positions and places. The tracks, as they frequently do in Finn's body of work, unfold like short stories, with stray observations and specific details setting the scene.
"Blankets," the opening track, contains a lifetime within its four minutes. Things come together ("We hung on for several summers") and things fall apart ("It got druggy and we crumbled"). But for the narrator, no matter what's transpired, some things remain ("Still I haven't never loved her"). There's a sensation of instability, but also a spirit of inevitability, and as with so much of what Finn weaves, there's grace through it all.
I Need A New War comes out April 26 on Partisan Records.