Founded by former Creation Records employee Jeff Barrett in 1990, Heavenly Recordings was initially an outlet for Barrett’s love of the then-burgeoning acid house movement. After releasing a few underground dance singles in their first year as a label, Heavenly went on to help launch the careers of Manic Street Preachers and Saint Etienne (the latter might be thought of as the flagship band of the label’s early days).
Over the next 25 years, Heavenly remained involved in seemingly every major movement that arose, from mid-’90s trip hop and Britpop to the garage rock revival that followed. The resulting discography is eclectic without feeling arbitrary and also doubles as a fascinating chronology of UK indie’s endless permutations.
The releases highlighted here have kept Heavenly vital through one era after another. Owing to the label’s longevity and reliably solid output, a rule of one album per artist was put into play.
10. The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers
Given that Heavenly’s stable has included artists as prone to pop star gestures as Doves, The Vines, and Saint Etienne, it’s a bit startling to consider that the label’s best-selling LP is The Magic Numbers. Weightless and rather conventional in its prettiness, the album pillages the songbooks of Stuart Murdoch, Sufjan Stevens, and the more conservative side of ’60s pop and folk. Yet in 2005, there was something novel about the modesty of this quartet’s music, which came across as a mellow rejoinder to the knottier charms of mid-2000s freak folk. And humble as The Magic Numbers was, it now appears to have presaged the earnest, homespun direction indie folk would soon take, both for better (Fleet Foxes) and worse (Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers).