From the second the slide guitar creeps into your speakers, Heaven is Whenever sees The Hold Steady get back to what they do best, after the hit-and-miss affair of Stay Positive. The lyrics are fantastic stories of love and misfortune, the guitar is more prominent and sharp in its delivery and there's not an unmemorable song to be found amongst these ten tracks. At first it's likable, but as the highlights become more prominent - such as the lovelorn hook of "Hurricane J" and the punchy single "The Weekenders" - so does the album's excellence. Welcome back, boys. Sorry to hear about Franz.
Certainly a more consistently strong album compared to Stay Positive, The Hold Steady retain their core sound despite losing their (very talented) keyboardist. A few left-field ideas crop up (the horns and woodwinds in "Barely Breathing") but the record is the better for it.