Review by Nick Manduley

February 18, 2021

Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady released their rambunctious new single “Spices” on January 29th via their own label, Positive Jams. The single is the second track from their anticipated upcoming album Open Door Policy, due out February 19th.

No strangers to riffage, “Spices” kicks off with biting distorted guitar under frontman Craig Finn’s signature sprechgesang vocals (fun fact, that’s the German word for “spoken singing”; we learn something new every day!). Drummer Bobby Drake begins littering the track with off-beat grooves while the atmospheric tones of lead guitarist Tad Kubler layer over guitarist Steve Selvidge’s bending riffage. As the first verse draws to a close, the track expands with the grooving low-end of bassist Galen Polivka and Franz Nicolay’s twinkling keys.

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The chorus takes flight with Finn and Nicolay’s vocal harmonies, as well as a bright horn section. According to The Hold Steady’s bandcamp page, the guest horn section on Open Door Policy consists of Stuart Bogie, Ray Mason, and Jordan McLean. The horns breathe a whole new dimension of life into the chorus of “Spices,” and if this track is any indication of what’s to come on Open Door Policy, then it’s clear that Hold Steady fans everywhere should prepare to have their worlds effectively rocked.

Spices” absolutely lives up to the legacy of The Hold Steady; the motif of melancholy lyrical narratives and emotive musicianship has defined the band’s sound, and “Spices” is certainly no exception. However, The Hold Steady is in no way (or ever was) stuck in the past. “Spices,” as well as the other two singles from Open Door Policy, are clear indicators of the band’s amazing sonic progression. It’s a very special thing when a band can retain their core sound while still finding ways to stay fresh, and The Hold Steady continues to check that box.


It’s true that the days of Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America are long gone, but Open Door Policy is shaping up to ring in a new era just as amazing. As the end of the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly begins to creep over the horizon (we’re not out of the woods yet, wear that mask!) it’s only a matter of time before fans will be able to gather for more of The Hold Steady’s incredible live performances; where material old and new will find a home in their extensive setlists, and fans will be met by the raw passion each member brings to the stage.

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Nick Manduley is an aspiring music journalist and musician from Bradley Beach, NJ. He is currently an intern at Relix Magazine where he helps produce and curate online content. Since 2016, he has provided guitars and vocals for the local punk band Drive, Kid. Drive, Kid released an EP and a full-length album in 2018, and are currently recording their sophomore LP.

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