Heavenly Beat, the brainchild of ex-Beach Fossils bassist John Peña, creates something approximating indie muzak: meticulous laptop-pop grounded by ornate classical guitar and breezy steel drums. The group’s second full-length, Prominence, has significantly more energy and structure than their 2012 debut, Talent. This is partly because Peña added piano and mellotron to the digital mix, which perk up the record’s sugar-spun keyboards, spiral guitar riffs and his airy vocal crooning. However, Prominence‘s shift forward also has plenty to do with its specific sonic inspiration: the soft-glow trip-hop of “Standing Outside A Broken Telephone Booth With Money In My Hand” by ’90s one-hit wonders Primitive Radio Gods. The vibe of that tune drove Peña to use brisk drum breaks as a foundation; these scrambled rhythms add welcome rhythmic bite on songs such as “Forever,” whose Pantha du Prince-like choruses boast diffracted vocals and bustling beats.
This overall livelier atmosphere also permeates Prominence‘s mellower corners — looping sampled nylon strings dart through “Honest,” while the Wild Nothing-esque “Stable” ends with an extended instrumental coda full of tropical rhythms. These jaunty flourishes contrast nicely with Peña’s lyrics, which detail struggles with romantic uncertainty and the shame of desire. Still, Heavenly Beat isn’t defined or limited by its turmoil; as Prominence proves, Peña would rather channel his melancholy into lush, gorgeous music.