I will always be grateful to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series for introducing me to The Heligoats. The series has pumped out over 500 episodes over the years, but my favorite performance may go all the way back to No. 100 when Heligoats head honcho Chris Otepka helped NPR hit triple digits.You can tell that it’s nice because he wore a tie.
Otepka’s songs are swirling, enchanting beings that wiggle their way into your brain and refuse to get out. Not that you’d want them to, mind you. It’s fascinating to follow Otepka’s train of thought in these songs, which tackle the oft-visited themes of what happens to the surgical metal in your body when you’re cremated (“A Guide to the Outdoors”) and an examination of the floating fractals that you can see after you stare at the sun for too long (“I’m Pretty Sure I Can See Molecules”). Pretty standard stuff, really.
Jokes aside, Otepka treats each of his subjects with the same appreciation that another cerebral singer might apply to a breakup track. No idea is too weird, and it turns what might sound like a bizarre concept into a fascinating and absolutely enjoyable experience.
It’s also not hard to relate to these songs. For instance, set closer “Fish Sticks” is a riveting track that always manages to get me singing along. You might not have the same urge to revive a federally-protected swamp and then turn on the land when the new fish deem you an oddball, but the themes of feeling ostracized and finding your true self sure may ring a bell.
Otepka’s performance is now over five years old, but the magic of his words is still fresh. Since then, The Heligoats released the excellent Back to the Ache in 2013 and will release new album Back to the Lake on April 15. Also, those album titles rhyme, which is rather fun? Now Otepka and his band are out on the road, which includes an April 28 apartment show at Mahall’s in Lakewood, making the transition from a tiny desk to a venue near you.
Check Out The Heligoats on NPR For Yourself
Now Hear This is a regularly irregular column in which Alex Bieler writes about music – both new and old – that he thinks you should introduce to your ears. If you’ve got a musical suggestion that you think he should highlight, shoot him an email at [email protected] or tweet at him at @Catch20Q.