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Given how completely underwhelming I found the most recent full-lengths from Dum Dum Girls (Too True) and Crocodiles (Crimes of Passion), the conventional wisdom would probably suggest that I shouldn't have had particularly high hopes for Initiation, the debut record from Haunted Hearts. As surprising as it is that this is their first formal release - they seem to have been playing shows together for a fair while - it probably speaks to my love of some of the couple's finer moments (Endless Flowers, Only in Dreams) that the prospect of a collaborative LP seemed genuinely exciting.

There's probably a comparison to be made here that brings into sharp focus the merits, or otherwise, of married couples making music together; Kristin Gundred and Brandon Welchez always had enough common sonic ground, though, that any reservations were bound to be misplaced. In fact, Initiation neatly sidesteps the major issue that Gundred fell victim to with Too True; a crisis of identity. There's a slew of obvious motifs running through the album that define its sound; there's those fabulously washed-out guitars, that squeal like A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve, and a general sense that Gundred is taking the lead as far as the vocals are concerned; a wise move, given that Welchez's unassuming turns do little more than bring into sharp focus the authoritative quality of his wife's voice.

'Initiate Me' feels like a tepid note on which to begin; instead, 'Up Is Up (But So Is Down)' feels like the true kick-off, smartly-measured dual vocals set against spacey riffs. Weirdly, the most recent valid point of comparison I can think of, as far as the back-and-forth between the pair is concerned, is the record that Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice put out under the Jenny & Johnny moniker a few years back; like that record, there's obvious recognition that the female vocals are stronger, meaning that when Welchez does step front and centre on Initiation - the early stages of the poppy 'Something That Feels Bad Is Something That Feels Good', for example - his contribution feels all the stronger for having been used sparingly.

Probably the real triumph on Initiation, though, is how neatly it plays as a paean to the pair's influences; 'House of Lords', probably the highlight, channels the Bunnymen strut to glorious effect, whilst lackadaisical closer 'Bring Me Down', all blurry riffs and lethargic vocals, is a gorgeously-pitched nod to the less urgent side of The Cure. They say love is blind; on the basis of this intelligently balanced LP, though, it certainly isn't deaf.

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