Craig Finn Spins More Tales Of Tragedy & Resilience On Dense ‘Legacy of Rentals’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

After wetting his feet as a solo artist with 2012’s Clear Heart Full Eyes, Craig Finn put together what works out to basically a strong, thematically linked, a triple album on his next three releases, Faith in the Future (2015) We All Want the Same Things (2017) and I Need a New War (2019). He successfully partnered with producer/multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman to craft the soundscapes on all those albums as Finn’s tales of bleak, tough luck losers and struggling outsiders ebbed and flowed. After wrapping up that collection with an outtake album (All These Perfect Crosses) Finn and Kaufman are aiming to open new horizons with A Legacy of Rentals

The production has grown lusher as Kaufman and Finn enlisted Trey Pollard at Spacebomb to arrange and record a 14-piece string orchestra adding a sense of grandeur to the tunes. This being Craig Finn though, his novelistic lyrics focus on drugged-out adventurers and broken homes with a small yet strong sense of pride, all firmly in his wheelhouse as tales of woah, tragedy and resilience mingle throughout every offering. 

The opener “Messing with the Settings” uses a spacey sense of floating before spoken word verses and sung choruses (supported by female backing vocals) in between big strings. In memoriam is the topic and sad-lyrics-as-remembrance is a theme returned to often on the record. “Jessamine” keeps death/life’s memory forefront around cool restrained twinkling while “Never Any Horse” layers acoustic and burning electric guitars feeling out of place among the other efforts. Tracks deploying disco beats and bass bumps like “The Amarillo Kid” or sax breaks and dramatic finales like “Birthdays” seem lighthearted in comparison to the heavier offerings which Finn has a specialized talent for. 

While his main outfit The Hold Steady has received many comparisons to Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, here Finn moves to the next phase, recalling Bruce’s solo work of the late eighties/early nineties as the pulsing “The Year We Fell Behind”, “Due to Depart” and “Curtis & Shepard” give off a “Streets of Philadelphia”, “Tougher than the Rest” and slightly more upbeat “Secret Garden” vibes respectively.   

The album ends with two more spoken word offerings as “A Break from the Barrage” returns to the opener big string arrangements, female backing vocals, and touches of spacey accompaniment while “This Is What It Looks Like” pushes on through until morning, riding the back of a galloping beat. 

Finn’s style has subtly shifted and the increased spoken word with fuller sounds are both welcomed additions, but in the end, Finn will be Finn, and Legacy of Rentals continues his early morning, alone in barroom despair with hopes of redemption sprinkled throughout.   

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