The Heavenly States: self-titled

[27 August 2003]

By Jason MacNeil

The Heavenly States have recorded a split 7” single with a little known band from England called Coldplay. That should be more than enough to generate a buzz for this group (known last year as Fluke Starbucker). The trio of guitarist and main songwriter Ted Nesseth and the brother and sister pair of Jeremy Gagon and Genevieve Gagon have received praise from several folks, including Bonnie Prince Charlie. However, this buzz will mean nothing if they can’t deliver the goods on the debut album. And the answer, for the most part, is that they can.

Starting off by taking the Oasis album title What’s the Story, Morning Glory, the Heavenly States begin with “What’s the Intro Morning Glory?” From there, it leads into “American Borders”. The track is initially a hard and gritty rock track resembling Queens of the Stone Age, but then veers off into a nice melodic rock tune. “America, roll it up”, Nesseth sings as this structure repeats itself. The song is interesting but doesn’t truly set the album’s agenda. “The Story Of” resembles a contemporary Mellencamp song, consisting of violins working alongside the roots rock arrangement. It also sounds a bit like “So You Wanna be a Rock and Roll Star” done by the Byrds and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. It’s quite good and would fit well alongside the New Pornographers.

“My Friends” is a slower and melancholic indie rock sound in a vein of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. “My friends would say you’re right, you’re wrong, you’re right, you’re wrong”, Nesseth sings with harmonies from Genevieve Gagon. From there the violin seems to usurp the electric guitar, taking the lead spot for a stellar solo. “Beyond the Great Beyond” is more of a dreamy pop track that quickly gets some limbs moving for the listener. The first two verses tend to move smoothly into each other, making the first minute flow greatly. Jeremy Gagon and Nesseth add guitars here for a beefier and grander anthem-like bridge. The four-minutes-plus seem to fly by for the most part, although the conclusion is toned down.

“Monster” shouldn’t be confused with the R.E.M. album. Here, the Heavenly States are making their best marks with a change-of-pace tune that instantly recalls, for this Canadian, By Divine Right. Knowing how to wrap a melody around every single part of a song, the band has done in less than two minutes what it takes most bands five to do. “Cumulous to Nebulous” offers more fiddles with a lengthy instrumental opening. The lyrics kick in at two and a half minutes, taking the song to a different level. Generally, though, this song might work better as an instrumental—somber yet tight and steeped in alternative rock.

“Carwash” is a great rock effort that takes a while to get into but is full of cavity-inducing melodies and harmonies. The keyboards and effects in the background recall the Attractions supporting Superchunk. Nesseth keeps the “na na na nas” and “la la las” from start to finish. The only drawback is the ending, which seems to be the sounds of someone channel surfing intently. “Senseless Beauty” is similar, but is tighter and meatier with better hooks overall. “Empire” has a cinematic aspect, a lush and acoustic-driven tune which adds organ and tambourines as it evolves. While dreary and nearly dirge-like, the path the song travels makes one believe it’s ready to break out. But it never does, creating a great amount of tension for nearly seven minutes.

“Timeless Melody” would be a much better title than its current moniker as the Heavenly States have a slew of these lying around. Mixing guitars with tight arrangements, the Heavenly States create another little piece of heavenly pop. “Gin and Tonic” is pure pop rock before “Hangar” wraps it all up. If you’ve played the New Pornographers to death and need a breath of fresh yet similar melodies, you can’t go wrong with this gem.

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