Dublin duo Heathers have been getting attention for all the right reasons lately -'Forget Me Knots' racking up thousands of online hits and national radio airplay, an acclaimed performance at Electric Picnic showcasing their new material with a full band, and the small matter of being approached by some dude called David Guetta to write a track to potentially feature on his next collaborative album project. It's all been building up to the release of their second album Kingdom - and they may well get used to this level of attention, for the calibre of the songs within will only further strengthen their reputation as one of Ireland's most revered musical acts.
To put the strength of this album into context it is important to look back on the career of Heathers to date. Humble beginnings with their 2008 debut album Here, Not There (a joint release between Irish label Hide Away Records and US label Plan-It-X Records) which featured the dual voices of Ellie and Louise Macnamara, an acoustic guitar for accompaniment, and little else. It was rough, it was raw, but there were moments of brilliant hooky pop sung in ear-catching harmony. 'Remember When' cast them into the spotlight of the mainstream with a meant-to-be placement on a Discover Ireland advertising campaign. Heathers were the belles of mass showcase festival Eurosonic last year, much-revered as they performed new tracks with an expanded lineup. They subsequently decamped to London to record their newer material with producer Max Dingel. And now -their Kingdom awaits.
Lead single 'Forget Me Knots' is by no means the best song on this album -and that isays a lot. Opening track 'Circular Road' is a pacey alt-pop anthem in the same vein, albeit slightly edgier -a likely candidate as a future single. 'Lions, Tigers, Bears' gives the first insight into Heathers' new-found electronic leanings, a pulsing bass beat holding court with keyboards driving the melody. It's fascinating to hear the transformation of songs that have been doing the rounds for some time in their acoustic form -the emphatic refrains of 'Find A Way', the gradual build of the thrilling vocal climax to 'Underground Beneath', but above all else it's 'Waiter' that steals the show with its addition of beats and synths to make it a completely new song -unexpected, but downright brilliant. And then they go and surprise us all over again by ditching the wealth of instrumentation in favour of just piano and strings on the emotive stunner 'We Burn Bridges'.
The production throughout is so sleek and polished -flawless, even -that you can practically hear every tiny tweak that was made to get everything exactly right. It's refreshing to hear Heathers dodging the danger of vocal monotony by embracing their individual voices, too -Ellie's purred tones traversing the lower end of the scale, Louise hitting the high notes with gusto, and both combining in perfect harmony throughout. Kingdom is proof of how allowing time for raw talent to gradually scale the heights of its true potential can be a most magnificent thing -it's been four years in the making, but more than worth the wait.