‘Heavenly Bodies’ LP out August 26th, 2016
Fifty years from now, when polite self-driving cars move us comfortably from point A to point B at a top speed of 55mph, burning clean water vapor, not so much as a single rough patch of road under tires made of—oh, let’s say—recycled Greek yogurt cups, a group of vigilantes will take to the night. They’ll roll contraband Thunderbirds and Mustangs in neutral from their hiding spots, tanks full, window down. And they’ll find an open patch of highway outside of the city, free to gun the engines until they roar, the ancient smells of burning rubber and diesel filling the air. But the most important thing, the thing each driver obsesses over between every ride? The soundtrack, of course.
And Midnight Faces’ Heavenly Bodies will pour out of those windows and echo out into the dark.
If it seems a little melodramatic, what’s wrong with that? Midnight Faces makes music built for those moments when your heart’s beating faster, the moments when you’re willing to drop your worries for at least the length of an LP and just ride out on the feeling.
The third album from duo Matthew Doty (guitar/bass/synth) and Phil Stancil (vocals/guitar/bass), Heavenly Bodies is the first to feature drummer Paul Doyle as a full-fledged collaborator and the thrilling expansion of a sound begun on 2013’s Fornication. For that album, Midnight Faces’ debut, Stancil brought vocals to Doty’s existing songs; 2014’s The Fire Is Gone saw a more thorough partnership emerge between the two musicians, and praise for the record flowed from outlets including SPIN, Entertainment Weekly, VICE, and Nylon. And now, Midnight Faces returns with a more evocative sound than ever. From the widescreen guitars of opener “Blue Haze,” to the delectable electronic textures of “Space Boy,” to the twilight rush of “Feeling Like a Stranger,” the songs of Heavenly Bodies feel like breath in the lungs, ready to carry you forward wherever you want to go.
Doty and Stancil met in Grand Rapids, MI, though both were initially involved in separate projects. Doty had gained attention in the early 2000s with his band Saxon Shore, co-founded with his friend Josh Tillman, now better known as Father John Misty. Later, he’d catch Stancil singing during a gig at a bar. When they began playing together, Stancil says, it was a smooth transition, if a bit outside of his comfort zone. Stancil’s voice, rich and warm, sounds lifted from the golden age of ’70s and early ’80s classic rock, while Doty’s compositions tended toward a sound more reminiscent of dream-pop, shoegaze, and post-punk’s skittering energy. “I’d never written music from that standpoint,” Stancil explains, “and stylistically it was different, but it all came together pretty quickly for us.”
The synchronicity shows: Stancil’s voice lends weight to Doty’s emotive, atmospheric songs, while Doty’s precise, layered songwriting lets Stancil’s vocals float to the top of the mix, driving these indie-minded tracks with the directness of strongly melodic, instantly memorable classic rock. Together, with Doyle’s steady percussion, the songs of Heavenly Bodies take on a yearning, nostalgic—but never despairing—quality. It’s as if you’d been humming them to yourself in a montage of your memories, only realizing it when the song ends. Luckily, you can start over again with Heavenly Bodies whenever the moment takes you, which, with a band as graceful and immediate as Midnight Faces, it’s sure to do over and over again.