Release Date: May 27, 2014
Record label: Zoo Music
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
In their first official collaboration away from their respective bands Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles, husband-and-wife duo Kristen 'Dee Dee Penny' Gundred and Brandon 'Crocodiles' Welchez's debut under the moniker Haunted Hearts is one breaks very little in the way of ground. The omnipresent feedback, the pop sensibilities and the production sound is as you'd expect - a continuation of both artists' previous acts; essentially a 50/50 cross. And it's a 50/50 ratio that can also roughly be applied to the quality of the songs.
Dee Dee Penny and Brandon Welchez are not here to churn out archetypal love songs. The husband-and-wife duo, who front the respective bands Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles, formed Haunted Hearts two years ago. But they are more prone to camouflaging their affection in lurid imagery and husky reverb than syrupy remarks. Instead, the standard of romance on their debut album Initiation includes such phrases as "It's all right/You can tie me up/If I can tie you down," from "Something That Feels Bad Is Something That Feels Good." It won't make a Hallmark card, but it certainly makes for a jangling serenade.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Given how completely underwhelming I found the most recent full-lengths from Dum Dum Girls (Too True) and Crocodiles (Crimes of Passion), the conventional wisdom would probably suggest that I shouldn't have had particularly high hopes for Initiation, the debut record from Haunted Hearts. As surprising as it is that this is their first formal release - they seem to have been playing shows together for a fair while - it probably speaks to my love of some of the couple's finer moments (Endless Flowers, Only in Dreams) that the prospect of a collaborative LP seemed genuinely exciting.
Haunted Hearts is the musical pairing of real-life married couple Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls and Brandon of Crocodiles, and their first album together, 2014's Initiation, is an impressive blend of their respective bands' sounds. Dee Dee brings gothic mystery and her enchanting vocals; Brandon brings layers of psychedelic guitars and some sonic murkiness. They both bring the ability to write songs that hook the listener with snaky melodies and minor-key moodiness.
This husband/wife collaboration between Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez and Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee Penny marries the pained krautrock fuzz of the former’s band to the racy pop sass of the latter’s. Often pictured wearing the same red lipstick, their fishnets-and-fag-ash aesthetic is mirrored by the smutty sleeve art (above). Both have moved away from their lo-fi roots and, hearing them collaborate, you imagine married life as the reason for this more mature sound.
Working as Haunted Hearts, Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls and her husband Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles have made an album loosely based around the S&M scene in New York during the 1970s and ‘80s. Romanticizing the New York of decades past—never mind its taboo fetish clubs, celebrity-filled S&M dungeons, and the pervasive sexual landscape of pre-Giuliani Manhattan—is a tricky task in 2014, when just a few clicks away are hundreds of no wave, post-punk, and electroclash bands who were actually there at the time. Haunted Hearts don’t exactly unearth the scabrous New York of yesteryear; rather, they become the Ghost of Manhattan's Past and fly us over punk, sex, rebellion, and death-marked love while never taking us deeply into it.
Though they released the first song from Initiation nearly two years ago, the debut LP from Haunted Hearts has been gestating even longer. Married couple Dee Dee Penny and Brandon Welchez front the Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles, respectively, and elements of both bands inform their work here. On Initiation, Welchez carries with him Crocodiles’ dense, retro-leaning lo-fi, while the Girls’ dramatic flair and (sometimes troubled) romanticism makes itself known as well.
Initiation is a bit of a curiosity, really. Like all spin-offs, side-projects and assorted ephemera, Haunted Hearts has the potential to become little more than an insignificant link on the Wikipedia article of two more successful bands. Haunted Hearts is the other musical outlet for a Crocodile and a Dum Dum Girl – Dee Dee and Brandon Welchez have found increasing success and popularity in their respective bands through hard work and an uncanny knack for crushed-kohl pop hooks.