Feeling understood with the Hold Steady’s “Heaven is Whenever”

You’re 18 and your world is changing. You’ve just ended a relationship, moved across the country for school, or maybe you’re trying to make all new friends for the first time in years. It’s an exciting time, but also a stressful one, and you don’t quite know how to cope.

As of a 2017 American Psychological Association study, younger Americans (Millennials and Gen Xers) report higher average stress levels and are more likely to say their stress has increased in the past year compared with Boomers and Matures. Among a multitude of ways to combat this stress, the AACAP suggests exercise, practicing time management, and even listening to music.

But it can be hard to find an album that speaks to one’s situation. Especially when going through a period of change, it can be difficult to feel that your specific struggle is being heard. However, when you do find that one album, song, or even lyric that perfectly says everything you couldn’t say, it’s practically a spiritual experience.

That’s exactly what the album “Heaven is Whenever” by the Hold Steady can do for you. This collection of lyric-driven, guitar-heavy rock-and-roll perfectly encapsulates the excitement and angst that surrounds moving to a new town, having a brush with romance, avoiding a tumultuous ex, and finding the perfect friendship, without sugar-coating any of it. No matter what you’re going through, this album has an anthem to express your most personal emotions.

Take “The Weekenders” — an ultimate, witty depiction of a drunken attempt at reconciliation with an ex. Lead singer Craig Finn sings to a former girlfriend: “And if you swear to keep it decent / Then yeah, I’ll come and see you / But it’s not gonna be like in romantic comedies / In the end I bet no one learns a lesson.” His straight-forward, almost comedic storytelling in this moment encapsulates the albums’ honest heart; it’s hard not to recall an awkward encounter that recent ex of yours when listening to lyrics like these.

When everything seems to be falling apart, honesty can be the best policy and this album is blatantly truthful about all aspects of life. The album’s title comes from the lyric: “Heaven is whenever/ we can get together / sit down on your floor and listen to your records,” simply stating one of life’s great joys– the kind of joys it’s especially important to remember in times of crisis. You’re sure to feel included and understood after just one listen.


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