Separation Sunday is the second studio album by The Hold Steady, released on May 3, 2005 through Frenchkiss Records. A concept album, Separation Sunday follows the stories of Craig (the narrator), Holly (short for Halleluiah), a sometimes addict, sometimes prostitute, sometimes born again Christian/Catholic (and sometimes all three simultaneously); Charlemagne, a pimp; and Gideon, a skinhead, as they travel from city to city and party to party. (All three characters made appearances on the band's previous album, Almost Killed Me, and reappear in "First Night", and "Same Kooks" on Boys and Girls in America, and then again in "Ask Her For Adderall", a bonus track from Stay Positive.)
Separation Sunday is lyrically dense, full of Biblical allusions, intertextual and self references (e.g., in "Don't Let Me Explode," when Holly is asked about Charlemagne, "she just smiled all polite-like and said something vague"; in Almost Killed Me 's closing track, "Killer Parties," the narrator instructs listeners, "If they ask about Charlemagne/Be polite, say something vague"), word play, and puns ("Stevie Nix": "She got screwed up by religion/she got screwed by soccer players"). Vocalist/songwriter Craig Finn typically delivers these lyrics in a distinct flavor of sing-speak.
Musically, Separation Sunday engages Classic rock motifs -- guitar solos, riff-based structures, use of piano and organ, and guitar harmony. Structurally, however, most songs eschew the standard "verse-chorus-verse" song structure, frequently foregoing choruses or refrains altogether. In a review of the album, Blender described The Hold Steady as "sound[ing] like the best bar band in the world."
The album received an 8.7 on Pitchfork Media, and ranked at number eight on the 2005 Pazz & Jop critic's poll. The album was named the number ten album of the year by Spin.