HOWLING BELLS – Howling Bells (Bella Union)

Australian band Howling Bells have produced a debut album that is so unlike any other around at the moment that it stands heads and shoulders above a lot of our homegrown groups. The music harks back to fellow Aussies The Triffids, and in places Throwing Muses, with Jaunita Stein’s voice being an integral part of the music, and brother Joel’s guitar lines weaving in and out of her vocals. A lot of the music is very atmospheric, but built into that there are tunes that etch themselves into your memory, so it is in no way just background music. Juanita’s vocals can change to suit each song, from a P J Harvey rasp on ‘Low Happening’ to a sultry croon on ‘The Night Is Young’ or a screaming banshee on ‘A Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts’, and all the while the band are wrapping them in some great melodies. ‘Across The Avenue’ condenses all the best from the band into one song, with a haunting tune and some great guitar work from Joel, and should be a contender for the next single. ‘Velvet Girl’ has a great fuzzed out intro leading into a some good harmonising on the chorus by the Stein siblings, while ‘Blessed Night’ goes for the rock fan with some nicely strummed chords and a hefty beat. ‘In The Woods’ sees Joel take lead vocal for a change, and closing track ‘I’m Not Afraid’ is written by another Stein, Peter, which in a change of style, is a country tinged ballad. Another great debut album by a new band, as are all of these so far mentioned, and one which I will continue to listen to and to get more from on each hearing.