The Heligoats, an indie/rock band out of Bellingham, Washington, have finally released their much-awaited album, “Back to the Ache,” and once again we can admire the brilliance of this band and that of genius songwriter Chris Otepka. Towards the end of 2012 we reviewed a collection of works by Chris Otepka and The Heligoats, and were left overwhelmed by their energetic and colorful, yet both simple and elegant music style. Not to mention Otepka’s superb voice and sharp-witted songwriting.
This probably is one of the most underrated bands I have come across in recent years. On listening to their past albums, it was quite clear to me ( and probably to any Heligoats fan!) that most of the band’s would-be peers or more famous counterparts, couldn’t hold a candle to the songwriting, performances and music production delivered by these four guys.
The question is not, how good are The Heligoats? We already know that. The real question is, after setting the bar so high on previous works, can The Heligoats get any better than they already are? And it was with that question in mind, that I sat down to listen to “Back to the Ache.”
First-off the earthy, crisp sound production is a perfect compliment to both Otepka’s voice and his songs. The beauty of The Heligoats’ music is both the casual ease they seem to effortlessly slip into track after track, and the way their songs just manage to stick in your head. At first listen, you’ll always find one or two songs that stand out, and certainly the others sound good too, but not necessarily great. But then, try as you might, you simply can’t get them out of your head. And it’s at this point you realize, that all the other songs are just as great. And by that time, you comprehend just how damn beautiful the album is.
The powerful but simple instrumentation used by The Heligoats on this album, hides the true complexity of the work, and this for me, has always been a major strong-point in Chris Otepka’s music. The album resonates with pure, uncluttered songwriting, which I consider to be the pinnacle of honest sound and performance. Without a doubt Chicago’s Observatory Studios with Erik Rassmussen and Portland’s Jackpot! Studios with Larry Crane lent a solid hand in achieving the band’s sound on this album, but it is ultimately the way that Chris Otepka and The Heligoats construct their songs, that makes them so utterly compelling and appealing.
“Back to the Ache,” is a work of great maturity and insight. Written, sung, played, arranged, and produced with extreme passion. As always, I hate choosing standout tracks on any works by The Heligoats. It’s like preferring one chapter to another, in an enchanting book. Have you ever heard anybody say that a book was good (or bad for that matter!), but that it had a couple chapters that were better than others? So why do we do this with music?
Fact is, “Back to the Ache,” is pretty much like a novel, made-up of little three minute chapters, and if everyone opened their ears to real talent, this would become a bestseller!
Listen to the wistful and poignant opening track, “Good Morning” and observe as it pierces your heart from the get-go; it’s a lovely, delicate, but strong introduction to an overall theme of… Well go grab the album and discover each little chapter for yourself!
…and yes, though it sounds scary as hell, Chris Otepka and The Heligoats have gotten a whole lot better than they already were!
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