Release Date: Jun 10, 2014
Record label: N/A
You would be forgiven for thinking that we’d heard the last of Howling Bells. Eight years ago, the Australians released one of the best albums of the year with their self-titled debut, and it seems their career since then has been defined by a struggle to follow it. Their second album Radio Wars was a crushing disappointment, while 2011’s The Loudest Engine was so flat, many people were surprised to hear it had even been released.
Back in 2006, a bunch of Aussies released a debut album that would put them at the forefront of the indie circuit. Howling Bells' self-titled offering was packed full of desert-drenched guitars, pulsating rhythms and smouldering vocals from frontwoman Juanita Stein and solidified their cinematic sound as one of the most exciting in recent years. Sadly, what to follow was not as exciting; 2009's Radio Wars was a confused dive into the electronic world, that had even the most loyal of fans struggling to press the repeat button whereas 2011's The Loudest Engine saw the quartet return to their rockier roots but with a lacklustre finish.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Ever wondered how Lana Del Rey might sound fronting an indie-rock band, drained of Americana, yet remaining melodic and soulful? OK, you probably haven't, but perhaps you won't have to leave it to your imagination after listening to Howling Bells' fourth studio album. The Australian ensemble's leading lady, Juanita Stein, is a dead ringer for Ms.
Formed in Sydney in 2004 but relocating to London in their infancy, Howling Bells provided one of the most enchanting and bewitching albums of 2006 with their self-titled debut, single Setting Sun being the beguiling centre point of an all-round classy effort. Since then, though, things haven’t gone according to plan, with both Radio Wars (2009) and The Loudest Engine (2011) being received with little euphoria, leaving the quartet as something of an enigma. Now, a decade after their formation, comes Heartstrings, a collection of ten songs penned by sultry singer/guitarist Juanita Stein following a brief hiatus after the birth of her first child, with a few side projects for various band members also filling the time.
It’s been eight years since Howling Bells’ excellent self-titled debut album. On it, the Australian fourpiece fused Nick Cave’s doomed Gothicism and the neo-noir of David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’. By the time second album ‘Radio Wars’ followed in 2009, the trick had worn thin, while 2011’s dismal ‘The Loudest Engine’ found them out of ideas.
Returning with new vitality and maturity, Howling Bells deliver another smooth and satisfying affair. The luscious voice of Juanita Stein, unsurprisingly, hasn’t left her and despite taking two years out from writing, the band’s trademark garage rock kicks have remained in place. In that time Stein formed side project Albert Albert alongside ex-members of criminally underrated Leeds band Black Wire.
Having made their initial mark on the UK indie scene nearly a decade ago, Howling Bells return with their third studio album Heartstrings. Despite failing to prolong the impressive success of their self titled debut in 2004, the band have matured over time and now take on a new outlook within their song-writing. Relocating to London and Berlin, the native Australians have apparently settled down with other musical projects, and lead singer Juanita Stein has self-confessedly adopted a new worldview with motherhood.