In their first official collaboration away from their respective bands Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles, husband-and-wife duo Kristen 'Dee Dee Penny' Gundred and Brandon 'Crocodiles' Welchez's debut under the moniker Haunted Hearts is one breaks very little in the way of ground. The omnipresent feedback, the pop sensibilities and the production sound is as you'd expect - a continuation of both artists' previous acts; essentially a 50/50 cross. And it's a 50/50 ratio that can also roughly be applied to the quality of the songs.
Initiation is set on uneven foundations. The opening set of tracks are thin and largely overshadowed by the strength of the second half; songs that show the impact that both acts can have when they get it right. Both Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls have struggled with consistency throughout their careers, and Initiation is no exception. What it does present, however, is a pairing of musical minds that feels utterly cohesive: it really is a seamless integration, for all its faults.
To initiate the listener into Initiation is 'Initiate Me'. 'Initiate' is a strange choice of words, really - connoting cruel hazings of newly-inducted fraternity members. Thankfully, this is less severe; a pedestrian endeavour that achieves little of the sonic confrontation that it attempts; an awkward melody rendered all the so by the fact that the whole track is wound around this strange “Initiate Me” hook. A lukewarm introduction. The following track 'Up Is Up (But So Is Down)' sets things back on course, if in a somewhat predictable fashion: the washed-out feedback, the strong, insistent bassline, the woozy psychedelics of the vocals... this is what one would expect this record to sound like, for better or for worse. The following few tracks are largely more of the same - they are fine, but do not reach any new heights or cover any new ground.
Luckily, 'Love Incognito' saves this record from monotony. A beautiful study in Eighties melodrama, this is fantastic pop balladry; layered, nuanced, honest and steeped in drama, heartbreak and synth. Here, even the signature haze of the production, overused by this point, is appropriate and refeshing. 'Bring Me Down' closes the record on a similarly slow, reflective note: “You've been bad, but you're the best I've ever had”, the couple sing, as feedback builds in the background and drums reverberate until the track reaches its abrupt end.
Despite the inconsistency of the tracks displayed here, Initiation is a neat collaboration; there is no point where anything feels jarring or out of place. The tracks may not be anything particularly bold or new, but this formula has been honed for long enough to make them successful, largely at least.
5Jon Clark's Score