CD Review: The Heligoats – Back to the Ache

When not touring around the world (which last year was nine months), Chris Otepka, aka The Heligoats spends his time in Bellingham. So while he is local only in the sense that his storage unit is here, when an album this good gets on our desk, it needs to get reviewed.

Released four years after the critically acclaimed Goodness Gracious (he played NPR’s Tiny Desk series), Chris continues to write some of the most honest, heartfelt and engaging songs in indie rock. Seemingly stream of conscious lyrics that tell elaborate and quirky stories, one of the most engaging aspects of the music is Chris himself. If you’ve ever seen him play live or watched live performances, his imagination combines the vividness of creative schoolboy with the realities of an artistic adult. Tall tales that bring the listener into Chris’s world, almost like stepping into Wonderland.

Unlike his local performances, Back to the Ache was recorded with a full band and the dynamics amongst the musicians is amazing (mostly likely do to their constant time on the road). While the focus is often on Chris’s lyrics, the music is also captivating – sounding fresh and engaging in a genre that isn’t always so.

The downside to the album is more personal than stylistic – hearing The Heligoats as a full band makes me long to see them live, but seemingly whenever Chris does play in town, it’s as a solo. Hopefully that’ll change soon and we can see The Heligoats in all their glory.

All in all, this is a grand record, a guaranteed good time for any listener.