So I guess I should give some full discretion before I dive into this review: I hate indie music, and I hate (most) female fronted bands. Neither have ever caught my ear aside from a few rare exceptions that stand head and shoulders above their peers (Sleigh Bells, Automatic Loveletter, maybe some He Is We), and I really didn’t plan on changing that opinion. But after listening to Belle Histoire‘s debut EP I Can Tell, maybe I can find room in my heart for a little bit of both.
Coming out of Cincinnati with their blend of female fronted indie pop rock, I Can Tell was released on Valentine’s Day and it’s easy to see why. Of the four tracks featured here, the first two are smooshy, gooey love songs that bring to mind memories of summer and cheesy photo montages of couples holding hands. However, the second half dives so deeply into melancholy reflection that it’s a bit hard to pin down just what Belle Histoire want us to take away from their debut.
First up is Stay A While, which is a shame because it just doesn’t stand up that well as an opener or as an indication of the band’s talent. Aaron Hunt and Austin Livingood sound bored out of their minds on guitar, and drummer Wes Comer plays the most simplistic beat that just doesn’t do anything special. The lyrics are happy and could be considered cute, but Jane Smith delivers them in such a flat way that you would think she’s reading a menu at Taco Bell rather than asking her lover to stay with her.
Luckily, their potential comes crashing through Be Alright, the first single off of the EP. Everything that was wrong with the opener is remedied here, as Smith sings her heart out and the drums crash in time with the guitars. By the end of the song, when the handclaps and group vocals are brought out, I had fallen in love with this track. If Belle Histoire can always produce this amount of energy in their songwriting, then they can definitely go places.
But then we get to the melancholy part of I Can Tell, and although the lyrics are a bit more morose, the music behind it is still beautiful. Misguided gives Smith the chance to showcase her voice as it floats over a piano that carries her perfectly. Once the rest of the band joins her in the chorus, you’ll feel your heart break just a little. This is an example of a sad song done right, and Smith sounds truly heartbroken while she sings.
Finishing the EP strong, Sailing Ships has a dreamlike sound to it that builds into a beautiful duet between Smith and the man she sings to. Both deliver strong vocal performances over a beautiful musical backdrop that fades away until it’s just Smith crooning “I can only hope that this love stays true.” It’s a fantastic closer that left me waiting to hear more.
So maybe I was a little rough on Stay A While. But still, getting three songs out of four right isn’t something to be ashamed of. For a debut effort, it’s easy to see that Belle Histoire has a bright future ahead of them. Their debut full length is due this summer, and hopefully by then they will have had time to examine what type of music they do best and how to build on it. But until then, I Can Tell is still a strong debut for a young band, and one that promises great things for Belle Histoire.
I Can Tell was released on February 14th, 2012