Heavenly Beat – Talent

Rating: ★★★½☆

It seems like everyone from Beach Fossils is going out on their own these days (DIIV), but the music being created by bassist John Pena has a brighter bent than his bandmates, giving you a collection of songs that’s probably more suited to the “beach” title than even his original group.  Talent is chock full of bright pop tunes that provide listeners with a chance to let some of music’s natural warmth into their lives–you know, if that’s what you’re looking for these days.

Originally, I expected to find Talent as a bedroom listening experience, but “Lust” brought more to the table as soon as I pressed play.  There’s a brightness in the musical arrangements that supersedes the quieted vocal approach used by Pena.  It’s either the string arrangements or the throbbing beat bubbling beneath, but it provides more depth to a typical headphone listen.  “Messiah” carries on with it’s string arrangement stabs propelling the vibe of the record/track.  I completely dig the bass line working beneath the single too, which isn’t too much to expect I suppose, seeing as this is one of Pena’s specialties.

But, one of the things I dig isn’t necessarily the arrangements, though they all fit perfectly, it’s the tropicalia feel that comes along with the guitar sound.  Songs like “Faithless” or “Influence” have this mellow strumming that seems to have roots in Latin American beach tunes, or even classical Latin music.  When it’s combined with the other musical arrangements, it transports one to either the beach or to the heart of Mexico (maybe that’s only me since I lived there for a time).  Heavenly Beat has cleverly put a nice spin on this sound, making it instantly original, though there are other acts taking similar approaches.

Admittedly, heavy doses of listening to Talent can perhaps wear you down, as the level of differentiation is fairly minimal, but there’s something undeniably powerful about the record as a whole.  Each time I put it on, I find new elements lurking beneath a track I thought I already had figured out. It’s not every day you find a band that can create an album with a sound that seems limited to a certain extent, but still has the ability to surprise you over and over.  I mean, “Tolerance” still gets me every time, with each element entering at different moments, coming in and out of the speakers.  At times the guitar almost seems to disappear, then it comes in with hooks to grab you again. Such are the perks of a well-crafted record.

Side projects aren’t always able to eclipse one’s main project, but I think Heavenly Beat in a lot of ways has allowed John Pena to establish himself as a credible songwriter on his own.  Talent doesn’t have Pena playing a role where he’s revising his work, but rather sees him pushing beyond Beach Fossils to find his own sound, and he does so successfully.  If you want to find yourself wrapped up in the warmth of a solid record, then get your hands on this.


Download:Heavenly Beat – Messiah [MP3]

Talent is out 7/24 via Captured Tracks.


  • Although I enjoy this cd it isn’t an original sound. Perhaps you should check out a Swedish band called The Embassy. Both their albums “futile crimes” and “Tacking” are great. Heavenly Beat has basically ripped off this sound for the American audience…just sayin..

  • Oh yeah, I know those records, but I’m saying in regards to the more main stream American indie pop, this is definitely a bit more refreshing. I don’t think there’s really anything that’s going to come out as truly original, but I dig the string arrangements here. I just worry that the availability of home recording processes could cause things to be more mundane. I guess time will tell as more of this ilk floats about.

  • I gotcha…totally agree as well. Nothing original necessarily, but a solid album otherwise. Great summer listening as well.

  • Indeed. I really dig that tropicalia feel. Makes me yearn for a new Little Joy record.

  • Richard and Nathan –

    So cool that you’re talking about The Embassy. There is a really cool “compilation” on Service called “Life in the Trenches” that is easy to get. Thanks for the great discussion.

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