Something about Cinncinnati-based band Belle Histoire harkens back to the mid '90s. It might be the earnest vibe of their sound, solid rock coupled with romanticism that comes with a female singer backed by guitars alternating between grungy and sweet. Listening to their debut album Dreamers makes me wonder what The Cranberries are up to these days.
I know -- bands hate it when reviewers make such comparisons. But that's sort of how we roll. Plus, lead vocalist Jane Smith does have that same sound that Cranberry Dolores O'Riordan has. So much so that I can almost detect the tinge of an Irish accent in her voice. Which I'm probably imagining.
Could be worse, you guys. I could've said they sound like lesser '90s chick-led-group Sixpence None The Richer. It wouldn't have been a stretch. But Smith's vocals are rich enough, the band's faster songs hooky enough, and their ballads poignant enough to give them some real musical substance, rather than just some band you might hear during a montage of longing looks on The Vampire Diaries.
Uptempo songs like "Kids" and "Don't Run Away" provide nice, guitar-riffy, harmonized jolts that keep the album lively, if perhaps just a little on the tame side. It's easier to imagine the peppier tunes playing beneath the sound of the steamed milk machine at Starbucks than at a club. Still, they were catchy enough for me to sing rowdily out loud while listening through my ear buds ("We are the kids who drove the crowd away/We dance, we sing, we rock, we dream and follow what we believe"), even if I was in line waiting for my morning Venti Pike Roast.
The go-to song on the album, though, is its centerpiece ballad, "Do You Love Me," a sweet and simple piano-backed poem about love, need and desperation ("I'll only drown if you push me/I'll only soar as high as you fly me.") It's the one I listened to three times in a row.
I'm rooting for Belle Histoire. I hope they're going to be in the game for a while. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go back and hear that ballad one more time.