The other morning, just before I had to wake up for another day of work, I had a vivid dream. The dream had me at a concert. I was watching a band next to a few pretty women. At a quiet lull, I leaned over to shout “I’m hoping to meet the Dum Dum Girls tonight!” into the ear of the attractive brunette next to me. She smiled and yelled “If you play your cards right, maybe one day you will” into my presented right ear. She and the three women with her then abruptly turned and walked away as the band on stage concluded their set. As you’ve probably already have guessed, if you didn’t immediately stop reading upon seeing “I had a vivid dream,” the woman next to me was Dee Dee Penny from Dum Dum Girls. Such is the crush that I have on this talented rock star and this is how happy I am that she has two albums out this year already! Not only did DDG’s release an excellent long player back in February (see Too True), but now along comes the debut album from a side project - Haunted Hearts - with her husband Brandon Welchez fresh from his band Crocodiles (I know, right? How am I supposed to propose to her now?).
Their 2013 debut 7” was an intriguing glimpse into what these two might come up with together (#30 pick seen here). It is somehow a perfect blend of what their two respective bands have done so far, despite not sounding a whole lot like either one. Both songs from that 7” are included here in different forms. The masochistic love song, “Something That Feels Bad is Something That Feels Good,” has softened edges now with added keyboard flourishes making it something more akin to mid-80s Psychedelic Furs than the Jesus and Mary Chain grind of the single. Similarly, that b-side “House of Lords” (the superior song, if you ask me), is given an additional buzzing opening instrumental melody to augment the simple propelling bass of the original.
If you liked that single you will likely enjoy much of the album. The opening “Initiate Me” builds from a quiet bass-driven interlude into a bouncy handclapping three minute pop song – still infused with a layer of sleaze fuzz to give the air a general deviant, underground atmosphere. Another catchy number comes in as the penultimate track, “Strange Intentions,” where Welchez takes over the main vocal duties, but it’s the bridge chorus and bridge that are the highlight of this one. Two of the songs that have been featured with videos include “Johnny Jupiter” and “Up is Up (But so is Down).” “Johnny Jupiter” is an echo-laden melancholic story presented by Dee Dee that has a growing charm with repeated listens. Meanwhile “Up is Up (But so is Down,” is kind of messy like the title. The song carries a woozy stumbling psychedelic feel – barely held in place by the insistent bass crawl – and lethargic vocals from both Welchez and Penny. This song nearly turned me off from buying the LP when I first saw the video. It surely achieves the vibe they were going for, but I’m not feeling this one. Luckily, the second side of the record is much stronger than the first. “Love Incognito” is their best song so far. Dee Dee takes the lead over a haunting keyboard, a stumbling beat and a wandering bass-line, but again it’s the majestic chorus that makes this song so special. Finally, the album closes with another strong song – the quiet “Darklands” – era JAMC “Bring Me Down.” The rainy day reflection of this song makes for a perfect closer for this collection.
This album is not as good as the Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles output so far, but it’s an entertaining album for the right kind of mood. I certainly won’t complain when this talented pair decides to take some time and record songs together outside of their respective projects and occasionally share them with us.
Haunted Hearts "Johnny Jupiter"