Okay, finally finishing this. I’ll start by saying I quite like this album, but maybe a different perspective than I expected or maybe didn’t.
On first listen, what I am hearing is an album that doesn’t serve to push the Springsteen narrative necessarily to the next phase, unless that phase is a way of looking back at all that’s been. This album is contemplative of Bruce’s journey in multitudes. There are song that directly address the ghosts and spirits of his past, and songs that harken back to different times in other ways - like how Janey Needs a Shooter and If I Was the Priest are contemporary deliveries of a dynamic sound that traces back to his early work. Other songs like Ghosts call back in lyrics but also in to his post E Street reformation sound.
As such, this album is more a collection of sounds he’s already explored and placed together. I think it is far more coherent and engaging in first listen than given credit. It’s instant satisfaction, unchallenging Springsteen in that regard and that could certain disappoint some who yearn for him to push his next envelope. He sounds great, and the band sounds like it sounds, but it all intentionally shows it’s age. Not gonna be a top 5 or 10 even Springsteen album, but it certainly serves its purpose.
I was immediately irritated that "Queen of the Supermarket" wasn't #340. Had to settle for #330. That song feels like he made a bet with someone that he could write anything and people would still buy it.