The Heligoats: Brainy In The Best Way

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The Heligoats' Chris Otepka writes songs that are brainy in the best way: clever without straining for cuteness, wry but never smug. Ideas flow out of him in a barrage, which means that a song about science — like "I'm Pretty Sure I Can See Molecules," by his ludicrously underappreciated former band Troubled Hubble — ultimately unfurls into a knockout commentary on what we're made of, what our lives mean, and how the two notions intersect.

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Fish Sticks"
  • Artist: The Heligoats
  • CD: Goodness Gracious
  • Genre: Rock
Chris Otepka of The Heligoats i

In "Fish Sticks," The Heligoats' Chris Otepka can barely keep up with the speed of his own ideas. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist
Chris Otepka of The Heligoats

In "Fish Sticks," The Heligoats' Chris Otepka can barely keep up with the speed of his own ideas.

courtesy of the artist

"Fish Sticks," from The Heligoats' forthcoming album Goodness Gracious, requires multiple listens to pin down its meaning; the song churns so urgently — it's so overstuffed — that it can be hard to parse. At its core, though, it's about a guy who starts a biosphere in a swamp, only to discover that doing so alienates him from both the world he's escaping and the one he's made for himself.

Whichever side of the fishbowl he's facing, Otepka doles out observations and sonic adventure with tremendous generosity. He writes like someone who's always taking things apart to see how they work, who's obsessed with circuitry and ecology, so it's no surprise that his songs practically burst with intellectual curiosity. Otepka may yearn for evolution to reverse itself — "Let's just turn back into amphibians / Let's just tread until our legs give in / and start over" — but his mind will never slow down enough for him to find that kind of simplicity or peace. Thank goodness for that.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Purchase Featured Music

Goodness Gracious

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Goodness Gracious
The Heligoats
Greyday Productions

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from