Maryellen Stohlman-Vanderveen ‘19
Assistant Copy Editor
Self-proclaimed Boston bar band, The Hold Steady, is back with the reissuing of their first two studio albums, “Almost Killed Me” (2004) and “Separation Sunday” (2005). The band is a unique indie rock group best known for their fun shows, diverse use of instruments and craftily written songs.
The two albums will be re-released as deluxe edition CDs, vinyl and digital downloads. They are currently available for pre-order and will be up until their Nov. 11 release date. Those who pre-order will receive instant downloads of The Hold Steady’s single “Milkcrate Mosh” and the previously unreleased track, “212- Margherita.”
This re-released edition of “Almost Killed Me” includes the same bonus songs as the edition of the album that was released in Australia in 2004. These songs include “Curves and Nerves” and “You Gotta Dance,” two of the band’s most jamming songs. The newest edition of “Separation Sunday” introduces two songs that will be familiar to fans who have been to one of their live concerts or heard their EPs: “212-Margherita” and “The Most Important Thing.” Included along with these two previously unreleased songs, there will be four demos. All of the songs on both new editions have been re-mastered from their tapes in order to preserve their original sound, while improving the listening experience for their fans.
Both albums embody the rougher sound that characterized the formative years of The Hold Steady and lack the cohesion of later albums. Listen to the dramatic and slightly awkward jumps in style between “Banging Camp,” “Charlemagne in Sweatpants” and “Stevie Nix” on “Separation Sunday” to hear an example of this. However, they are still crucial to the formation of the band’s discography.
Aside from their distinct sound, the band is recognized for their skillful storytelling. All of the band’s albums contain at least one song that ties into an overall plot across albums. This overall plot tells the story of Hallelujah, a young Catholic girl who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd.
In Hallelujah, nicknamed Holly’s, an adventure starts when she meets Charlemagne, an older man, at a bar in the track “Hostile Mass.” on the band’s debut album “Almost Killed Me.” Holly is immediately sucked into Charlemagne’s fast-paced world. She travels across the country and back again over the course of the band’s next four albums, pursuing drug-fueled adventures and frequenting different party scenes including but not limited to: Boston, Ybor City and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The reissue of these two albums coincides with the group’s current tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of the release of their third album, “Boys and Girls in America.” While the west coast portion and kick-off of the tour has come and gone, with fantastic sets at Riot Fest and the Urban Roots Festival, you can still catch the band at one of their four shows at the Brooklyn Bowl. The first concert in the series starts at 8 p.m., Nov. 1 and the band plays each night through Dec. 3.
This tour features the return of the band’s keyboardist, Franz Nicolay, who was featured on The Hold Steady’s first album, “Almost Killed Me,” before he joined the band and helped to produce “Separation Sunday.” Nicolay played with the group for five years before he separated from them on good terms in order to pursue a solo project.
The additional dimension that Nicolay’s keyboard adds to The Hold Steady’s music in songs such as “Cattle and the Creeping Things” or “Massive Nights” is essential to each song the group chooses to incorporate it in.
It will be a real treat for the lucky fans who are able to secure tickets and see him play alongside Craig Finn, The Hold Steady’s lead singer, once again. The band was originally only booked to play three nights but an additional Wednesday night show was added onto the tour due to how fast tickets were selling. While the shows are all sold out, determined fans who can get to the Brooklyn Bowl early will still have the opportunity to buy the tickets that were reserved to be sold at the door. As the Hold Steady would say, “You’ve got to stay positive.”