In terms of musical experiments, Mister Heavenly certainly is an interesting one. Composed of indie stalwarts Nick Thorburn (Islands/The Unicorns), Ryan Kattner (Man Man), and Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse), their side project is an aural white whale; try and pin it down and you could go mad and lose a leg. And I think they like that.
The band was founded as a way for Thorburn and Kattner to play off of each other’s voices while Plummer keeps rhythm in their debut, Out of Love. Off of this outline skeleton, the trio dabbles in several sounds, from the dark indie rock opener “Bronx Sniper,” takes a veering left turn into doo-wop and 50s and 60s R&B, then careens into surreal reggae in “Reggae Pie” and the bizarre indie pop song, “Pineapple Girl,” before drifting back to a Frankie Valli sound that has the feel of someone lighting a black candle at a sock-hop.
While the album jumps all over the place thematically, it maintains a sinister and eccentric tone throughout. The throaty vocals of Thorburn and Kattner add an extra dimension of darkness to lines like: “her lips are like ships, to sail right through the thoughts you harbor” and “you hate the women that came before you, you’ll kill the women who come right after.” The sweet sounding and radio-friendly “Pineapple Girl” centers around the maligned pen pal correspondence between Sarah York, a 10 year-old from Michigan and military dictator Manuel Noriega.
Adding a dash of the eccentric to their style of music, Mister Heavenly have created a novel idea. As the Wall of Sound and mid-century R&B makes a comeback, Mister Heavenly walks on an oft-tread landscape as of late. However, their carnival ride of sound offers variety and an inimitable kaleidoscope to view this revival of sound. It is a strange experiment, but an enjoyable ride nonetheless.