The first track on the Heavenly States' latest, Black Comet, comes off like a cheap ploy. Sure, "Look and Listen" proves that the Oakland band can write a passable punk ditty. But the lackluster string arrangements make it sound as if the group is tricking us into believing that its talents go beyond alternarock.
Three songs in, however, the title track blows all that skepticism away. That's when the Heavenly States start sounding like a Cajun wedding group that's had a bit too much bourbon, and the band's gift for getting far-flung genres to mingle becomes downright endearing. The zydeco strings and brass give way to the careening pop of "Elastic Days," on which violins bounce around Ted Nesseth's maniacal chants to create an effect that's both danceable and desperation-tinged. Maybe it's the classical and jazz training of siblings Genevieve and Jeremy Gagon, or perhaps it's the countless hours that frontman Ted Nesseth spent listening to records on his parents' old Wurlitzer jukebox. But somehow the band manages to pull off a wholly unpretentious collision of emo guitars, bluegrass violins, jazz drumming, and punk rock vocals. No cheap tricks required.