Album Review: Juanita Stein – Until The Lights Fade

Few artists these days showcase voice as an instrument as well as Juanita Stein does. Her falsetto in All The Way acts as a melody line over a persistent beat until a definitive “now” lays it down that she means business.

Forgiver has a deliberate beat but this time it’s to an electric retro tune. It’s as if Jenny Lewis and Lana Del Rey’s styles had been fused on the streets of Camden. Not bad for an Australian!

Get Back To The City keeps the rock vibe going with dirty Drop D guitar. Musically it’s pure Soho although the narrative is about leaving New York for an unsuitable man: “sometimes the cool girls end up with the assholes/it’s just the way it works.”

In Your Hands has a 50s tone, deftly combining dreamboat harmonies and rock & roll riffs. It segues effortlessly into a part waltz, part sultry spoken word song that easily lives up to its title: Cool.

Release Me is practically whispered. Sonically, he plains are stalked like in Stein’s previous solo record, but instead of a broken arrow it’s a broken kiss: “lover, we’ve taken all our chances/let me go/no need to fight.”

Silver Linings saunters in with spoken word interludes and a hard stop to draw a line under her proclamations.

Easy Street is the album highlight and the ear worm: “you sleep alone now/no, you don’t need a friend, you just need some long lost sleep.” Although it’s about a literal and emotional drifter, I’m sure many of us can relate to that particular sentiment.

A persistent beat drives Fast Lane headlong into the languorous, cosmopolitan French Film and that’s when it becomes clear. Whereas the previous record traverses American landscapes, this is contemporary and urbane. Check out our review of America to compare the two approaches.

Releasing a second solo album less than a year after the first seems unconventional but stein felt she had to grab the opportunity to record with producer Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, White Stripes, Loretta Lynn): “Everything I’ve done has always been planned and laboured over, but this album was very impromptu, very spur of the moment – a couple of the musicians I was working with I had only met for the first time that week. It was like nothing I’d ever done before.”