Juanita Stein – Until The Lights Fade (Nude Records)
Juanita Stein’s new album Until The Lights Fade is released less than a year after her solo debut album America, but already there’s a sign of increased confidence and progression. The Howling Bells front woman has such a distinctive voice that it’s hard to separate the band from her solo stuff, but she has managed to carve out her own niche in this album.
“I feel like the two albums are different sides of the same coin,” Stein explains. “If America was the starting point of a journey – the musical equivalent of me spreading my wings, but also treading carefully, trying to figure myself out having come from such an intense period of camaraderie in the band – then this record is me starting to gain a bit more traction, feeling more confident in where I’m coming from and what it is I’m doing.”
It was recorded over a week in Austin, Texas with the producer Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, White Stripes, Loretta Lynn) and the landscape influences things. Cinematic westerns ripple throughout the album, swaggering in its robust simplicity. It’s also dark in places, an almost noirish feel to the carefully crafted expansive landscapes and cosy nooks.
First single from the album, ‘Forgiver’, was co-written and produced by Brandon Flowers, following late night jam sessions whilst Stein supported The Killers on their European tour. It’s a propulsive and powerful tune that comes at you with a gutful of punch.
‘Get Back To The City’ is a sepia tinged piece of folk pop that sees Juanita exploring local landscapes and relationships through the eyes of a lost but brave woman. It’s got a hooky chorus and vibrant riffing that is full of energy. The most immediately accessible song off the album, it’s made a great single. ‘Easy Street’ is another up tempo tune that shifts and changes in density, as the guitars and drums stop to allow the vocals to cut through.
Opener ‘All The Way’ is a little bit trippy and psychedelic, albeit in a measured tone. Languid and lingering ‘In Your Hands‘ has a beautiful lilt to it, slowing things down slightly in this classic country ballad. ‘Release Me’ sees Stein addressing a lover in soft tones over a twanging guitar melody. There’s a lovely lasciviousness to the bluesy ‘Fast Lane‘ and ‘Cool’ is exactly that, relaxed and laissez faire, especially as it unwinds towards the end.
There’s nothing riotously new here. It isn’t a genre bending game changer. But it is a solid set of ten tunes that explore city living, relationships and life through the lens of a sharp and accomplished woman. Overall Until The Lights Fade is a delight to listen to. Stein’s talent doesn’t look like it will be fading any time soon.
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