Haunted Love: Spirit Revival (Round Trip Mars)

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Haunted Love: Apokha
Haunted Love: Spirit Revival (Round Trip Mars)

Some CD cover photos -- like Feelstyle's Break it to Pieces and the most recent Whirimako Black album -- just cry out for vinyl-size reproduction. Yvonne Todd's striking photo on the cover of this debut album by New Zealand's Haunted Love (Rainy McMaster and Geva Downey) is another such cover. 

Just take the time to look, and even in this tiny reproduction you can see the striking detail and why it inspired the album's title. Pray for a 12".

Delivering subtle, understated pop with some cool electro-touches, Haunted Love (who appeared on the Clean's Mr Pop and Robert Scott's terrific Ends Run Together) craft a beguiling blend of the ethereal, bright post-New Wave pop with beats and the disconcertingly childlike (all cleverly woven together on the dark tale of Ballast Rhyme).

Here are stories of confusing love (the surreptitious Alonso Philippe against a disarming sonic bed and which never quite takes flight as you think it might), leg cramps from running too fast in Teenage Fever (actually it's more sexual suggestive than that) and Warewolf delivers hormonal need in a whispery seduction and a too-late warning to the object of the singer's affections.

Songs of innocence and experience we might say, with an electro-beat and real pop smarts. Good on all fronts.

Robot Boyfriend is a bit cutesy in the manner of the latter-day Brunettes but it seems a minor misstep (if it is, I'm sure many will love it) and Pony you may enjoy despite yourself for its twee quality (and humour, a rare commodity in pop and one to be encouraged). Control/Alt/Del at the end seems too slight.

But when they bring together dark/light and understated drama together with clever arrangments and sharp production (Apokha is a standout in that regard) you can hear why this duo is already attracting international attention.

Many repeat plays to be had here, guaranteed.

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