The Heavenly States

Delayer

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Three albums into their career, the Heavenly States have finally gotten through their growing pains and created the record that the best parts of their uneven early work suggested they had in them. Producing themselves for the first time and finally nailing down a permanent bass player (Masanori Mark Christianson), singer/songwriter Ted Nesseth and friends have streamlined the three key elements of their sound -- acoustic folk-rock, noisy punk, and catchy indie pop -- into something far more coherent than before. Though Delayer still vacillates between acoustic folk-punk (often featuring keyboardist Genevieve Gagon's skirling violin lines, for a sound akin to the Petra Haden-era Decemberists) and electric pop/rock in much the same way that Ted Leo & the Pharmacists do, but the two are better integrated, with more shared instrumentation and similar vocal styles, so that there's little mental recalibration needed when folky acoustic tunes like "Sun Chase Moon" nestle up to more straightforward indie pop like "Make-Up." All of this makes Delayer the most consistent Heavenly States album, but what makes it the best is Nesseth's top-notch songwriting: from the wry opening rocker "Morning Exercise" (with a chorus of "It hurts so bad/This goes on the record") to the ultra-catchy, New Pornographers-like finish of "The Race," this is by some measure the Heavenly States' finest work so far.

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