Song of the Day: The Heavenly States - The Specialist

Song of the Day
07/09/2015
Jacob Webb

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “The Specialist” by The Heavenly States from the 2015 album HISS on Love Brand Music.

The Heavenly States - The Specialist (MP3)

When The Heavenly States emerged in the early 2000s with a punk-inflected take on '80s college rock melody, the California band followed through on their early buzz by steadily hitting the road and churning out consistent, regular records. Formed by singer/guitarist Ted Nessseth when his prior band, Fluke Starbucker, dissolved, Nesseth, keyboardist/violinist Genevieve Gagon, and drummer Jeremy Gagon first recorded under the aforementioned band's name before making their debut as The Heavenly States on a split release with a pair of not-yet-massive bands (Coldplay and The Postal Service). Over the course of three albums – 2003's The Heavenly States, 2005's Black Comet, and 2008's Delayer – the band embarked on a heavy touring schedule, including gigs that made them the first rock band to play in Libya. Now based in Austin, Texas, with drummer Gray Parsons and bassist Benjamin Howard augmenting Nesseth and Genevieve Gagon, the band's latest release, this year's HISS, might be their most ambitious undertaking to date – a triple album released exclusively on vinyl. On "The Specialist", the band's jittery energy propels them through a winding, pointed, and furious three-and-a-half minutes. Nesseth adopts his best Britt Daniel-esque snarl and barks out descriptions with equal parts detachment and condemnation, sporadically countered by Gagon's calm, filtered response vocals. On an album that's being released in maybe the least commercially accessible way imaginable – HISS is only available on their website for $50 (and another $8 in domestic shipping!) – "The Specialist" is a remarkably direct and frenetic cut that shows that The Heavenly States still have plenty of spirit left in them.

The Heavenly States are playing a string of Midwestern dates throughout the rest of the summer, so keep an eye on their Facebook and website for any news on new music or tour dates. Below, watch the band play "The Specialist" live on KEXP just last month:

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