What do you get when you take 1 part Modest Mouse, 1 part Islands/Unicorns, and 1 part Man Man? Well, the ultimate supergroup in my opinion; you get Mister Heavenly. Out of Love is the name of their first work together, and while the edgier voice of Ryan Kattner might not seem like the best fit for Nic Islands, it’s a surprising juxtaposition, leaving listeners with an abundance of solid tracks.
When Nic begins the brief verse for “Bronx Sniper,” you wonder just how his notable pitch will fit with Kattner’s banging style. Once Ryan joins in, you can rest assured that the two fit well together, with Nic’s tendency to exaggerate his vocals at times blending interestingly with his throatier counterpart. If you were looking to see how the two would fit, this isn’t the best example, as “Mister Heavenly” seems to be the best statement from the group of Out of Love. Ryan begins with his organ-stomp, but then Nic throws in his smooth delivery and a nice guitar line. When you expect Nic to burst forth on the chorus as he would with Islands, instead you find Kattner. And back and forth they go, successfully.
Perhaps what seems to have worked best for Mister Heavenly is that the group seems to have reawakened Nic’s noisier side, as he hasn’t seemed this endearingly frantic since the late days of Unicorns. His last few releases have seen him become really polished, cleaning up his delivery a bit. But, he’s always had this dark side, which you really get to see resurface on songs like “Doom Wop.” There’s a coat over the vocals, yet you can still hear both singers belting out their lines distinctly. It’s a revitalized energy that longtime fans will be happy to see. Also, Ryan does deserve praise at this point for his own vocal range, which seems to be go anywhere he wishes (see “Diddy Eyes)–to great effect.
And at the heart of the whole project for Out of Love is Joe Plummer, the group’s unsung hero. All those familiar with both Islands and Man Man will surely be aware that the groups have vastly different styles to songwriting, so you’ve got to have a solid kit-man to hold it all down, and Plummer does a great job keeping the group together. Each member tosses his style in and out of every song, with those dirtier piano based parts coming from Kattner, and Nic’s penchant for stellar guitar hooks, so Plummer’s ability to keep it all sounding tight is with a doubt the band’s saving grace.
There’s a gem here and there, like “Pineapple Girl,” living on the higher pitches, but one thing that might hold back praise from some is that there’s nothing outstanding. Every song written by Mister Heavenly has the potential to be extraordinary, but it’s mostly standard fare, which is sort of a letdown. You want everything to be incredible, and instead it’s all just good. That being said, there’s not really a throwaway track on Out of Love, so the group has that going for them. Who knows where they’ll go from here, but as of now, this is a solid start for a much-hyped supergroup.
Download: Mister Heavenly – Pineapple Girl [MP3]