Even though thumpy and clappy and light-hearted, “Model Son” also unfolds deliberately, with an exquisite sense of sound and accompaniment. The precisely-picked acoustic guitar line that we hear in the introduction lays the slightly-skewed groundwork for this smartly-made song. Without ever quite knowing what’s going on lyrically, you are likely to find a smile on your face through the cumulative force of happy music. This sounds like XTC and CCR joining forces to enter a Modest Mouse songwriting competition.
The level of detail at nearly any moment is splendid and endearing (example? that penny-whistle sound that wiggles oh-so-briefly to the forefront at 0:58). In the hands of the Heavenly States, a section of the song that might otherwise be like treading water—some wordless backing vocals over a steady beat, tying the end of the chorus to the beginning of the next verse (beginning around 1:00)—becomes its own charming adventure. Violinist Genevieve Gagon is another matter entirely, shredding everything in her path when her solo arrives (2:19).
Currently a trio (although the picture on the Oakland-based band’s home page still shows four; see above), the Heavenly States have been recently in the news because they are, somehow, and bizarrely, the only American band ever to have played in Libya, which they did in 2005; Gagon and front man Ted Nesseth were interviewed on CNN about the experience earlier this month. She and Nesseth, by the way, are married; her brother Jeremy is the band’s drummer.