Craig Finn, the Minneapolis-raised frontman of The Hold Steady, is set to release his third solo album, “We All Want the Same Things,” this spring.

Craig Finn, the Minneapolis-raised frontman of The Hold Steady, is set to release his third solo album, “We All Want the Same Things,” this spring.

Best Picks: Feb. 9–22

Updated: May 17, 2018 - 3:53 pm

What to do downtown after work

Minneapolis musical mosaic

Minneapolis has always been a character in singer-songwriter Craig Finn’s storytelling. And it’s no different on “We All Want the Same Things,” the third solo album from the 45-year-old frontman of The Hold Steady.

Where many musicians use New York or Los Angeles as a backdrop for their songs, Finn uses the Twin Cities. While many outsiders may have little understanding of the localities Finn name drops — from the Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods to western suburbs — they add more depth for local listeners.

CraigFinn-WAWTST-AlbumArtIn “Tangletown,” Finn, who grew up in Edina, tells the story of two people not quite connecting. In another track, Finn writes on a night of drinking based on his own drifting around the Twin Cities after coming back following college. Even if he doesn’t specifically talk of Minneapolis, Finn discusses the strange importance of parking lots — a favorite topic in this city — on “Tracking Shots.” The milieu of Minneapolis gives the alternative rock album’s narrative even more weight.

“I was thinking about parking lots as a place in an increasingly transient world where we take important phone calls, make big decisions, move our lives forward. The people in this song are trying to keep their heads above water, and adjusting their ‘dreams’ to reflect reality,’” Finn has said about the song.

Finn will open for Japandroids at First Avenue’s mainroom on Tuesday, Feb. 14 joined by The Uptown Controllers. The Canadian maximalist duo, who draw inspiration from Twin Cities punk legends The Replacements and Hüsker Dü, are touring off their new album “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” their third full-length release.

10565233_748494788542753_9205418465691842526_nNo sleep for the wicked

For someone like me who grew up on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” on Nickelodeon “The No Sleep Podcast” has been a constant source nostalgic ghost stories, for both entertainment and the occasional scary dream. The horror-fiction podcast, now in its eighth season, delivers a weekly series of spooky stories from writers of all kinds who churn out a mix of humorous monster tales, truly hellish fables and more. It’s enough to get you to lose sleep, but that’s always been the point. Founder David Cummings is taking his cast of talented voice actors on a live tour to bring their consistently frightening stories on the road. The Sleepless Tour will come to The Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday, Feb. 23 for a unique all-ages show horror fans or those of us who are already counting down to Halloween shouldn’t miss.

bearcat bar webCats, games and bears — oh my

Twin Cities restaurateur Kim Bartmann has switched The Third Bird, her Loring Park restaurant, with a whole other animal: Bearcat Bar. My waiter described the transition as a change from casual fine dining to a neighborhood hotspot. And that translates to cheaper drinks, a more traditional but characteristically quirky menu, not to mention arcade games. Plus, it still keeps the beautiful space and the long, circular bar. The noticeable change is from the kitchen, which produces an eclectic array of dishes: Fried chicken served with kimchi? A goose liver Juicy Lucy? Pho? I had to try the latter after the bartender recommended it. What arrived was a passable version of the Vietnamese noodle soup with the customary garnishes of basil, lime and more. Bearcat Bar’s pho comes with delectable meatballs, oxtail meat and wide rice noodles. What could have been an obvious overstep in the menu becomes a fun, or at least refreshing, option for lunch in Loring Park. The casual concept does well to differentiate itself from neighbors 4 Bells and Café Lurcat.