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Howling Bells - CD

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Howling Bells was formed by three former members of Australian group Waikiki (sister and brother Juanita Stein and Joel Stein, and Glenn Moule). After recruiting bassist Brendan Picchio, the band moved to England to record their eponymous debut album in Liverpool, with producer Ken Nelson. Recording of the album was delayed for several months as Nelson was preoccupied working with Coldplay. In the meantime the band lived together in one room in a house in London and took menial employment. Guitarist Joel Stein later told smh.com.au: "We stole to eat when we first moved to Britain."

Howling Bells was released in May 2006 on the Bella Union label. It received much critical acclaim including 9/10 in NME and 7.8/10 from Pitchfork. It placed eleventh in NME's list of best albums of 2006.

Howling Bells' style of music was described by MOJO as "blues-noir desolation" and by The Guardian newspaper as "bruising, narcotised rock'n'roll". In its review of the album, NME wrote: "by turns beguiling and enthralling, this is an extraordinary album." Metro newspaper said: "Two months into 2006 and already the best debut album of the year seems settled.".

Howling Bells spent much of the next two years touring Europe, Australia and parts of the USA. They played on the NME New Music tour in 2006 and at the 2007 NME Awards show and performed at numerous festivals over the 2006 and 2007 summers, including Reading/Leeds, Latitude Festival and across Europe.

They have supported US band The Killers in the USA, Europe and Australia, Placebo in Australia and Europe and Mercury Rev in Europe, as well as Snow Patrol on their Australian tour and Razorlight in the UK. They supported Coldplay on their 2009 North American leg of the Viva la Vida Tour and on some dates of Coldplay's 2009 European tour.

In 2008 they signed a deal with London-based Independiente Records and recorded their second album, Radio Wars, at The Sound Factory in Los Angeles with Dan Grech-Marguerat, who has engineered records alongside producer Nigel Godrich, including Radiohead, Air and Paul McCartney. Radio Wars was released in the UK in March 2009 and, after signing to Nettwerk Music Group, was released in the USA in July 2009.

Radio Wars signalled a change in direction for Howling Bells, their music becoming generally brighter and more accessible, with a greater emphasis on keyboards. Consequently, reviews were mixed. A review on the website of the BBC claimed "the second chance may well have been squandered", while gigwise.com called it "an album of mashed-up half ideas". More positive reviews came from The Independent on Sunday ("Bigger, brasher...this might be the album that elevates Howling Bells from a band you wouldn't switch off to one you would actively seek out"), Music Week ("This longplayer could help cement their position as pioneers of eerie indie"), New! magazine ("Deliciously dark and romantic, their epic songs are slightly gothic, but stay on the right side of cool!"), indielondon.co.uk ("Howling Bells’ return is a resounding success") and ABC ("anthemic, edgy, stomping indie rock at its best").

Juanita Stein explained to Repeat Fanzine the background to the band's change of musical approach that resulted in the different sound of Radio Wars. She said: "The first record was more me in my bedroom kind of wallowing over lost love and falling in love – it was a very, very romantic and brooding process. But with this one, it’s pretty much been a unanimous process, like every member of the band has added their flavour. In terms of the new songs, they have a very, very different energy – hugely different. In general, the lyrics are a lot more immediate, whereas the last record was a lot more nostalgic. This album is a lot more modern in a way and instant. You know, it’s talking less about innate feelings and more about the impact between myself or ourselves, and the world around us".

Howling Bells headlined a tour of the UK in March 2009, supported by The Joy Formidable and Chew Lips. They played the V Festival in Australia in April 2009, before touring North America with Coldplay in May and June 2009. The band returned to Europe to play summer festivals in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Turkey, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Their UK appearances included The Hop Farm Country Park, Hard Rock Calling and V Festival.

In March 2009, music website gigwise.com proclaimed Juanita Stein "the sexiest woman in rock". Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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