The Hold Steady's driving force has always been frontman Craig Finn and his songs, which are wrought with Catholic guilt and monster hooks. In the first few shuffling bars of "Apollo Bay" — the opening cut on Finn's debut solo album — dark, minimal guitars chop against his voice as he spins a tale of guilt-splashed woe. It's typical Finn: Drop out the instruments, and you're left with a compelling narrative. Clear Heart Full Eyes features jangly and slightly shambolic '70s rock, shuffling boogie, some dirty blues, and a bit of choogling twang rock. Characters find trouble, each other, and, of course, religion. Then they lose them in equal measure. At times it feels less like an album and more like Finn searching for a new muse. Or at least a variation on his current one.
— Nicholas Hall