Creating and releasing music is a lot different then it was ten years ago. It is more difficult then ever to be innovative while maintaining a sound that is marketable. Over the last few years indie rock has been gaining enough momentum and recognition to break through to a mainstream audience (via Bon Iver, Arcade Fire and their respective Grammys). While this may not be to the desire of the hardcore crowd, it is inevitable. The five-piece, Cincinnati grown, indie alt/rock outfit Belle Histoire shows a push for the mainstream crossover in their new I Can Tell EP.
Belle Histoire is led by the lovely Jane Smith (lead vocals) and guitarist Aaron Hunt. They started quickly, beginning in March 2011 and signing with Invogue Records before the year was up. Belle Histoire’s four song EP is indie rock for the masses. It is easily accessible and will appeal to a younger high school demographic. The sound is a melting pot of influences tightly knitted into one marketable indie/alt band.
This first song on the EP is an upbeat acoustic pop driven song called “Stay While.” It features under layers of organ chords and an over layer of punk pop harmonies. The lead guitar melodies are unmemorable and demand no attention but that is quickly over looked by the catchy vocal melodies. Jane Smith does a good job of invoking emotion with her calming breathy voice and coming-of-age lyrics.
Next is their alternative rock single “Be Alright.” This is the most sharped song on the EP. It has good layer development, funky drumming and a clapping breakdown (something that I have been in love with ever since hearing Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”). Apart from the rest of the EP, Jane chooses this song to give a glimpse of her vocal talent, showing a bluesy Florence Welch type wailing of the words, “it’ll all just be alright,” during the outro anthem. Jane’s lyrics make way for a Christian rock feel on the track; she sings, “ …I know someone’s watching over me, so it’ll all be alright.” This is an obviously allusion to God and religion showing Belle Histoire’s versatility in their genre scheme.
The track “Misguided” is for all the teenagers out there filled with angst because Evanescence isn’t on top of the alt-rock scene anymore. Jane Smith is featured on piano and seems to be taking vocals cues from Amy Lee (Evanescence) on this one. The dramatic chord progression brings a healing process to the anxieties and emotions displayed by hormonal imbalanced teens after a break up. This song gives light to why Belle Histoire considers themselves alternative rock.
The closing song on the EP is “Sailing Ship” a folky, Gaelic-feeling duet. (Makes me want to watch Braveheart on VHS.) What is disappointing on this track is the fact that Jane Smith is still singing in the same range as in the previous songs. Jane’s companions dry vocal style pulls away from her emotional projection. Apart from the harmonies, the lack of chemistry between the two hinders the songs dramatic effect on its listeners.
Overall Belle Histoire’s play on the indie/mainstream crossover is a smart move. All four tracks show a different side of the band and how versatile they can be. They need to develop a more unique and genuine sound pulling away from the genericism projected within the I Can Tell EP. Jane Smith is talented and I’m excited to see how their full-length album slated for a summer release pans out. I would like to hear her sing in different ranges and I also think Belle Histoire could benefit from a balance between catchy leads as well as their memorable vocal melodies. Big things are coming for this indie/alt-rock outfit.