Howling Bells – Heartstrings
Motherhood has kept Juanita Stein and Howling Bells off the radar these past years and fourth album Heartstrings must surely be a test of their staying power, eight years after the release of a hugely promising debut. The band's strength remains Stein's breathless delivery; she could sing the Australian phonebook and still make it a captivating listen. Where Heartstrings falls down is that when the music slips towards the pedestrian, her dark, sultry tones are not enough to hold it up.
After a powerful opening (Paris's mean hook, Possessed's battering riffs and the reflective Your Love), the record starts to feel listless and repetitive. Euphoria is less than euphoric and Paper Heart is papyrus-thin – only Original Sin adds a little lust and wrath to the album's closing stages. It's all perfectly pleasant, but pleasant just isn't enough to demand repeated listening. Thus, Howling Bells early potential remains unfilled for the time being.