Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Some Major Rock & Roll Problems: Craig Finn’s Favourite Albums

Will Parkhouse speaks to the Hold Steady frontman about his thirteen most played LPs

He turned 40 last summer, and Craig Finn, the irrepressibly bouncy lead singer of Minnesota’s The Hold Steady, is seeking out new experiences. He and the band are still going steady – 11 new songs have been written and recording is planned for the start of the summer with the hope of a 2012 album release – but with five records in the bag for the band, he admits: "I wanted to do something that scared me, made me uncomfortable."

The result was a trip down to Austin, Texas to record a solo album with the help of a quintet of strangers. Clear Heart Full Eyes, out now, will sound both familiar and different to Hold Steady connoisseurs. He’s used to penning lyrics, but Finn wrote the music for this one (guitarist Tad Kubler does the honours in The Hold Steady). It’s quieter – "I really enjoyed getting through, you know, not yelling above the damn guitars," he tells us – and darker, kicking off with the crunchy minor blues of ‘Apollo Bay’ and followed by the bitter sneer of ‘When No One’s Watching’. But it is filled with those familiar short but resonant stories made up of unmistakeably Finn-ish lines: "We drove around all summer long/ We parked behind the bars."

His Baker’s Dozen is a personal selection, for sure. Aside from one record from 1994, there’s nothing here post-’87 and his choices are shot through with teenage reminiscences. The Hold Steady’s sound is more akin to Bruce Springsteen or REM, but hardcore and punk feature strongly here. Despite that, he confesses: "Hardcore captures that frustration you feel at that younger age, but it’s something I don’t miss at all. To me, being a teenager was not something romantic – it was kind of awful. I really like being 30 and beyond. Even in my 20s, I look back and I’m like, ‘Ugh.’"

No surprise then, that the man for whom the phrase "unlikely frontman" could have been invented – Vanity Fair once described him as "looking like the kind of bespectacled nerd who meticulously catalogs his Radiohead bootlegs" – enjoys the outsider status of J Mascis, the other-worldliness of Bad Brains and Pavement’s enigmatic insider jokes. "Good old Freddie Mercury / He’s the only guy that advises me," he sings on Clear Heart…’s ‘No Future’. Not a bit of it…

Click the picture of Craig Finn below to begin the run-down

First Record

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