Radiate Reviews: Experimentation pays off on debut album

By: Carlos Sucre-Parra/Columnist

Bands created as a side project usually feel like an extra outlet for the artist to release previously rejected material from their original ensembles or as an experiment for their next album.

In the case of Mister Heavenly, it is quite the opposite. Featuring members of Modest Mouse (Joe Plummer), The Unicorns/Islands (Nick Thorburn) and Man Man (Ryan Kattner), this new band accentuates the best quality of each of its members, creating one of the most satisfying releases so far this year.

 

The opening track of “Out of Love,” “Bronx Sniper” with its grungy undertones and aggressive drumming seems heavily influenced by Joe Plummer’s original band Modest Mouse.

 

With its heavy, wailing nature, Bronx Sniper” creates a rift when compared with the much more lighthearted tracks that follow.

 

Vocals by both Thorburn and Kattner stress and agitate the listener, a great addition to the song, as it generates a rather heavy atmosphere and vivid images of danger and stress (much in similar fashion to The Unicorn’s “Ghost Mountain”), leading to a great start to the record.

 

One of the greatest qualities of Nick Thorburn’s defunct Unicorns was the quick-witted dynamic between himself and former band mate Alden Penner.

 

The constant tug-of-war in the lyrics and instrumentation, when juxtaposed with the dark subject of the lyrics, creates a deeply satisfying hook-laden pop song— a technique he successfully employs with fellow member Kattner in “Out of Love.”

 

The partly discordant pairing of oldies’ 50s and 60s revivalist garage-pop, playfully worded with tales of strange pen pal relationships (Pineapple Girl) and dark stories of strange love (such as Harm You and Hold My Hand), creates an extended idea of a parallel universe where this material could have very well fit into the time period.

 

Yet, it retains certain elements of darkness and mystery, such as a brooding dark undertone in the middle of a love song.

 

Thorburn and Kattner dubbed this dark venture into pop as a new genre: “doom wop,” an introduction of ominous events to love songs.

 

Tracks such as “Reggae Pie” demonstrate a certain level of isolation on part of the subject. It demonstrates that this bleak nature of the lyrics do not originate from a malicious source (despite the mention of blood or harm) or the veiled sense of threat, but instead, these lyrics come from a certain feeling of longing and missing of the loved one.

 

The lyrics “Is it too late to say that I want you/ more than a man should ever admit to” is an example of leading to the overt use of emotion and broody lyrics.

 

Despite the dark undertones, “Out of Love” has a playful spirit, which is what ultimately allows it to become such a fun record.

 

“Your Girl” sets up this awkward story of lost love and of becoming the third wheel in an ex-partner’s newfangled relationship in hopes of sneaking a kiss or stealing a dance.

 

This, when paired with the follow-up track titled “Wise Men,” a song that serves as a rebuttal on all advice to forget the past and move on, instead pleads to bury his heart in cement and throw it into the sea.

 

The songs drive the listener to the point that maybe “doom wop” didn’t have to do with doom or death in the most physical sense of being, but rather the total annihilation of someone’s heart and the idea of love, creating an exciting new entry into the old field of heartbreak albums.

 

Radiate Reviews is a weekly music review column. Look for it every Wednesday this Fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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