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Album Review: Hurricane Bells – Tides and Tales

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Hurricane Bells’ sophomore full-length, Tides and Tales, picks up right where 2010’s Tonight Is The Ghost left off. They’re still working the Killers-plus-encroaching-depression aesthetic over jangly guitars and quirky sound effects. While there are fewer standout tracks here than on their debut, Tides and Tales makes for a solid listen.

Kicking things off with an odd, distorted squeak, Hurricane Bells luckily only dabbles in noises, instead mostly relying on quiet vocals, simple percussion, and straightforward guitar work. “Before I’m Gone” is one of the best examples of this, a song that is interesting in its simplicity, the sort of track that might unexpectedly catch your attention in the middle of a mix CD. It’s not innovative, perhaps, but it has a certain charm.

“Flowers In The Dirt” uses the basic formula to up the emotional ante on a break-up song. Here the vocals are laid bare over a single, soft guitar line. Vocalist Steve Schlitz stretches higher with gentle pain: “I’ve been here with her old broom/I’ve been sweeping up our old room/If the night brings a warning/Oh, I try to forget it in the morning,” he intones, the story heartbreaking in its delicate, plain-spoken nature.

Continuing a trend that began on their debut, the album features instrumental “The Hunger Moon” as a closer. If the end of the album received more attention here, it’s because the beginning all blurs together a bit. It takes Hurricane Bells a while to find their groove. Really, Tides and Tales makes one want to listen to Tonight is the Ghost again. It’d be nice to hear a third album that really capitalized on the band’s massive potential rather than merely reminding of their past work.

Essential Track: “Flowers In The Dirt”

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