Heaven Is Whenever

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Heaven Is Whenever
The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released4 May 2010 (2010-05-04)
GenreIndie rock, Heartland rock
LabelVagrant, Rough Trade
ProducerDean Baltulonis, Tad Kubler
The Hold Steady chronology
Stay Positive
Heaven Is Whenever
Teeth Dreams
Professional ratings
Review scores
allmusic4/5 stars[1]
Drowned in Sound8/10 stars[4]
NME8/10 stars[5]
Pitchfork Media(6.2/10)[6]
Q6/10 stars[7]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[8]
The Skinny5/5 stars[9]
Slant Magazine4.5/5 stars[10]
Spin5/5 stars[11]
Sputnikmusic4/5 stars[12]

Heaven Is Whenever is the fifth studio album by the Hold Steady. It was released May 4, 2010, on Vagrant Records in the U.S. and May 3, 2010, on Rough Trade in Europe.[13] The album's first single, "Hurricane J", premiered on Pitchfork Media on March 22, 2010.[14] Regarding the album's lyrical content, vocalist and guitarist Craig Finn states that: "I kept saying Stay Positive was a record about trying to age gracefully. This record, I think actually was us aging gracefully. Some of the lyrics come from a place of a little more wisdom, being 38 and at this point having a lifetime in rock'n'roll."[15]

Heaven Is Whenever debuted at #26 on The Billboard 200 with 23,000 albums sold in its opening week [16] thus becoming the highest charting album by The Hold Steady.

Background and recording[edit]

In 2009, the Hold Steady began writing Heaven Is Whenever while touring in support of their previous album, Stay Positive. According to guitarist Tad Kubler, the band "turned the back lounge of the [tour] bus into a makeshift vocal booth where we could also overdub guitars. These songs gradually became the demos for the new record, and we continued writing. It allowed us to work at a pace that was dictated almost solely by our creative output. We just hit record whenever we thought we had something worth putting down."[17]

The band subsequently entered the studio with Dean Baltulonis, producer of the band's debut album, Almost Killed Me, and its follow-up Separation Sunday. Vocalist and guitarist Craig Finn states that Baltulonis is "a real close friend, so it was kind of a more relaxed, less formal way of making a record. We kind of went in for shorter sessions over a longer period of time, and we recorded a lot. There's a fair amount of songs that didn't make the record, and that's always a heartbreaking thing, choosing between your favorite children."[18]

The album does not feature former keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay, who left the band in January 2010. Guitarist Tad Kubler and additional musician Dan Neustadt, however, both perform piano and keyboards on the album in a diminished role in comparison to the band's previous two releases. Craig Finn states that: "I think the biggest difference is that a lot of the songs were written with no piano or keys. So there's a sense of space in it that I don’t think we've had since Separation Sunday."[18]

The band released four songs via the internet before the album release, "Hurricane J", "Rock Problems", "The Weekenders," and "Barely Breathing". All four songs contain the band's trademark anthemic choruses and nostalgic, hyper-literate lyrics, leading some critics to doubt Finn's claim that the album will be a departure from the previous three.[19]

The album was released one month early for Record Store Day 2010 on clear vinyl in a hand screen-printed sleeve, fewer than 600 copies were released globally. The album also included an online download code that became functional on the album's official release on May 4, 2010.[20]

Content and influences[edit]

Guitarist Tad Kubler has stated that "musical scores" and "cinematic soundscapes" were major influences when composing the album, listing Gustavo Santaolalla, Terence Blanchard, Jon Brion as key examples.[17]

Vocalist and guitarist Craig Finn states that the album's lyrics "speak a lot about struggle and reward. It's about embracing suffering and understanding its place in a joyful life. I think that some of the characters from old records are there, but I don't name them by name. I think it continues to examine the highs and lows that we've looked at on previous records."[17]

The title of the album comes from the lyric "Heaven is whenever we can get together", from the song We Can Get Together.[21]

"We Can Get Together" references the British twee-pop band Heavenly, as well as hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü who, like The Hold Steady, had their roots in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Craig Finn and Tad Kubler, except where noted.

  1. "The Sweet Part of the City" - 4:24
  2. "Soft in the Center" - 3:50
  3. "The Weekenders" - 3:48
  4. "The Smidge" - 3:22
  5. "Rock Problems" (Finn, Kubler, John Reis) - 3:31
  6. "We Can Get Together" - 4:29
  7. "Hurricane J" (Finn, Kubler, Franz Nicolay) - 3:02
  8. "Barely Breathing" - 3:37
  9. "Our Whole Lives" - 4:00
  10. "A Slight Discomfort" - 7:13

iTunes bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Touchless" - 3:34
  2. "Ascension Blues" - 2:59


The following people contributed to Heaven Is Whenever:[22]


Year (2010) Peak
UK Albums (OCC)[23] 45
US Billboard 200[24] 26
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[25] 5
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[26] 8


  1. ^ "allmusic review".
  2. ^ "AbsolutePunk review".
  3. ^ "BBC review".
  4. ^ "Drowned in Sound review".
  5. ^ "NME review".
  6. ^ "Pitchfork Media review".
  7. ^ "Q review".
  8. ^ "Rolling Stone review".
  9. ^ "The Skinny review".
  10. ^ "Slant Magazine review".
  11. ^ "Spin review".
  12. ^ "Sputnikmusic review".
  13. ^ "Hold Steady Releasing New Album May 4". Buzzgrinder.com. 2010-02-23. Archived from the original on 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  14. ^ "Premiere: Hold Steady: "Hurricane J" | News". Pitchfork. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  15. ^ "Interviews: The Hold Steady | Features". Pitchfork. 2010-05-17. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  16. ^ "Godsmack Score Third #1 Billboard Debut With Oracle - Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. 2010-05-12. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  17. ^ a b c "The Hold Steady". Shore Fire. 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  18. ^ a b Valby, Karen (2010-03-19). "Craig Finn of the Hold Steady talks new album, 'Heaven is Whenever,' at SXSW | The Music Mix | EW.com". Music-mix.ew.com. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  19. ^ "New Hold Steady: "The Weekenders" | News". Pitchfork. 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  20. ^ "Page". Record Store Day. 2009-12-15. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  21. ^ "Heaven is Whenever - The Hold Steady (9.6.09)". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  22. ^ Heaven is Whenever - liner notes.
  23. ^ "The Hold Steady | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart.
  24. ^ "The Hold Steady Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard.
  25. ^ "The Hold Steady Chart History (Top Alternative Albums)". Billboard.
  26. ^ "The Hold Steady Chart History (Top Rock Albums)". Billboard.