My Favorite Hold Steady Songs

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Favorites

My love of the Hold Steady has been pretty well documented. Five years ago I barely knew their music. I started listening to them around 2006 but I didn’t see them live until late 2008 at the Riviera when they were touring for Stay Positive. Since then I’ve seen them once at the House of Blues, twice at SXSW 2010 (Club DeVille and Red 7) , once at Taste of Randolph, once at the Vic, and once at Lincoln Hall, for a total of 7 times.  I’m going to see them at Metro later this month so that’ll be 8 times. With that said, I think it’s time I shared my favorite THS songs.

“The Swish”

I think this was the first Hold Steady song I ever heard. It’s off their first album Almost Killed Me (2004). I like the slow build up of the intro before the lyrics come in. As for the lyrics, it seems like every line is about either drug dealers or drug users, classic Hold Steady.

“Chillout Tent”

This one is off Boys and Girls in America (2006). Great song, it reminds me of going to festivals in the summer. It’s also kind of a love song. A little different from other Hold Steady songs since it has two guests (Dave Pirner and Elizabeth Elmore) doing vocals. It’s also one of the least depressing Hold Steady songs.

“Constructive Summer”

This is the first song on Stay Positive (2008). For me this is the ultimate summer song. The fact that they reference Dillinger Four is icing on the cake, “Me and my friends are like ‘Double-whiskey-coke-no-ice.’ We drink along in double time; might drink too much, but we feel fine.” I’ve seen them start their sets with this one, great way to get the crowd going.

“Hornets! Hornets!”

This is the first song on Separation Sunday (2005). I love the monologue at the beginning. I also love the line about shows, “I really like the crowds at the really big shows, people touching people that they don’t even know.” Another great song to start off the set. When the music kicks in, you are pretty much compelled to start jumping.

“Stuck Between Stations”

This is the first song on Boys and Girls in America (2006). Another song that gets the crowd pumped. The Hold Steady really know how to pick an opening track. I think I had just finished reading On The Road around the time I first heard it so I particularly enjoyed the reference to Sal Paradise. Like all good Hold Steady songs, alcohol features prominently in the lyrics, e.g. “He likes the warm feeling but he’s tired of all the dehydration.”


Most of my favorite Hold Steady songs get me pumped up. This song is a little more of a downer with the acoustic guitar. I love the chorus, “Lost in fog and love and faithless fearI’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere.” It’s on Boys and Girls in America (2006).

“Hot Soft Light”

This is the third track on Boys and Girls in America (2006). Another songs that’s amazing live. It’s full of urgency and the crowd goes wild for it. Lots of sing-a-longs for this one.


This one is on Stay Positive (2008). It’s a little more down tempo for a Hold Steady song. I especially love the album version because it has Ben Nichols helping out on vocals.

“You Can Make Him Like You”

Another one from Boys and Girls in America (2006), which I just realized is probably my favorite THS album. This is one of the most depressingly optimistic songs around.

Chips Ahoy!

The second track 0n Boys and Girls in America (2006). Another song about junkies, but this one also covers horse racing. It also gives you a great opportunity to practice your whoah-ohs and handclaps.

  1. […] albums in close to 5 years.  Not to mention b-sides and live albums. While I don’t disagree with Oscar’s list, he does miss some stellar Hold Steady songs that deserve some love. Also, I’m pretty sure that I […]

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