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KT engdahl

Are you an indie kid who is constantly daydreaming of finding awkward and obscure bands to inspire awe and mild disgust from all of your hipster friends? Well, then this probably isn’t the article for you. But, if you are interested in expanding your musical horizons a little bit, this might be the place to do just that. And who knows, maybe you’ll score some indie cred along the way.

For our first installment, I thought I’d talk about a favorite band of mine—Mister Heavenly.

Mister Heavenly was created in late 2010 by a superstar cast of holy-crap-they’re-in-my-favorite-indie-band musicians. First in the lineup, Ryan “Honus Honus” Kattner of Man Man lends his piano, voice, and mustache to the all-star cast. Next in line is Nicholas “Diamond” Thorburn of Islands and the Unicorns gives his god-like guitar skills and sweet indie voice to the band. And last, but certainly not least, Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse gives his drumbeats to the band. Plus, as an added bonus, Michael Cera of Arrested Development and Juno is one of their touring bassists. I challenge you to find another band with as much indie super-cred as this one. No, really, if you know of another band like this, please let me know so I can obsess over them as much as I do these guys.

Having released their first album ever this August, Mister Heavenly is rocketing to indie music stardom. Coming in at #3 on CMJ’s Radio 200 chart less than a month after it was released (and still sitting pretty at #29 this week), Out of Love has won over college kids and critics alike. Showcasing the best of the new genre “doom-wop” (doomed love songs mixed with doo-wop), the album can easily be played end-to-end, with each song weaving into the next. The songs blend from one to the next perfectly, each with its own piece to contribute. “Diddy Eyes,” “Your Girl,” and “Wise Men” have the strongest tones of doo-wop, bringing the ‘doom’ with a bit of macabre hidden in lyrics like “You’ve got a gash let’s get that sewn / I saw a hunger in your bones” and “I’ll throw caution to the wind / and bury my love inside quick-drying cement.” The album has a series of upbeat, almost dance songs interspersed amongst the doo and the doom. “Pineapple Girl” probably takes the indie cake on strange and upbeat song choice, but “I Am a Hologram” slides into a close second with its almost eerie commentary on what it means to be hollow in our modern age. I haven’t sang such sad lyrics in such an upbeat tone since I last listened to Reel Big Fish. To be sure, it wouldn’t be a Kattner or Thorburn project if it didn’t contain some sadder (though still not slow) songs, like “Reggae Pie,” which has a clear Honus Honus feel to it, serving as a slight contrast to the more Thorburn inspired “Harm You.” And while these two artists have quite different feels to their music outside of this collaboration, you can still feel the fingerprints of the other artists on these songs to form what feels like a perfectly cohesive album.

In some places, the collaboration from this trio has a few rough edges, with some details to work out about whose voice may fit which track best, but Kattner’s over-the-top experimental nature, the nature that drives Man Man, is tempered nicely by Nick Thorburn’s calmer and more traditional indie sensibilities. Adding Joe Plummer to the mix only increases their interest and quality. The overarching themes of mindful melancholy, and love lost (or never found), punctuated with spurts of almost fanatic facades of upbeat antics give this album a well-rounded feel, while still leaving the listener with more than a few bittersweet twangs on our most fragile of heartstrings.

Mister Heavenly is currently on tour, though sadly, they once again have neglected us poor Minnesotans. I’m beginning to suspect this may have something to do with Pow-Pow of Man Man having his rubber rabbit stolen from the stage in 2008. Although they have played in Minnesota twice since then (with Gogol Bordello at The Cabooze in 2009 and just this summer at First Ave), so maybe I’m just desperate for a reason for all of the neglect.

For those of you who love to travel, Mister Heavenly does have a show in Chicago, IL on Sunday, November 13. 

Just the stats:

Created: late 2010


Ryan Kattner/Honus Honus of Man Man

Nicholas Thorburn of Islands and The Unicorns

Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse and the Shins

Occasional member: Michael Cera of Juno, Arrested Development, etc.

Albums: Out of Love (2011)

Genre: Indie Rock, “doom-wop”

Free MP3 Downloads?: Yes!

Free Album Stream?: Yes!

Helpful Links:

Subpop band profile

Subpop album profile

Official band website


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Poetry: Lightsey Darst

The Cartographer