Heavenly Beat


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Heavenly Beat's second album in as many years, 2013's Prominence is a well-crafted sequel that builds on the strengths of the self-titled debut and is another graceful, dream pop delight. The process of recording it may have been difficult -- John Pena tried working in a real studio but discarded the results and ended up making this at home by himself -- but the result is a seamlessly smooth delivery of gentle melancholy that drifts along peacefully and lulls the listener into a quiet and content mood. As on the debut, the sound is simple and sophisticated with influences that range from the tender pop of Prefab Sprout to the bubbling beats of house music. Pena blends synth string washes with nimbly picked guitar lines, adds little bits of percussion here and there, and generally builds a very strong foundation for his breathy vocals and hushed melodies. The only real difference here is that the sound is a touch more direct than on the debut, with more forward motion to the rhythms and more straightforward arrangements. The brief appearance of slide guitars and the keyboards that sound like steel drums are nice touches, too; they show how Pena is making small adjustments to the sound to keep it fresh. Really though, the main takeaway from one listen to the album is that if the first record worked for you, then Prominence will too. The songs are just as good, Pena's craft has only grown stronger, and the overall consistency of sound and mood works to cast the same kind of waking dream feel that's very easy to disappear into for half an hour. Pena is wise to keep the album short so that it ends before any restlessness sets in; instead, it works just like a peaceful power nap or a relaxing mini-vacation. You come out of it feeling refreshed and comforted, and that's a pretty rare quality in a world where most albums try to dazzle you with their brilliance and over-the-top emotion. Pena is playing for smaller stakes here and he does it with style, making Heavenly Beat a go-to band to turn to when you need a break from the pressures of the world.

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