Amidst the din of intensified pontification around the economic and socio-political fallout of the coronavirus crisis, we seem to have curiously detached from the actual matter of death, except as a statistical tally.
Howling Bells singer-guitarist Juanita Stein had actually lost her father (also a musician) before the world went into this fatal period of lockdown; and so as the many and sundry pandemic anxieties were creeping into our existence, she had already been put in the position of having to confront a very personal grief. But as artists are wont to do, she had channeled it into a catharsis of a solo album—her third—the pithily titled Snapshot (with Blur/Doves producer Ben Hillier at the helm.)
“It feels fundamental to understanding the devastation and eerie silence thrust upon us after his sudden death,” she explains. “It was a daunting task to sum up the life of one man such as my father. He was endlessly inspiring, charming, deeply talented and passionately spiritual. He admirably, and at times frustratingly, carried the torch for his own musical career until the very end.”
The Aussie songstress has also taken advantage of the quarantine isolation by making a series of lockdown videos, the third of which, for new Snapshot single “L.O.T.F.,” BlackBook premieres here. The track itself is a languid bit of haunted blues rock, with distortion heavy, echo-laden guitars, shuffling/thudding drums, and Stein’s spectral but self-possessed vocal performance. Lyrically, it’s a meditation on leaving behind the carefree idyll of youth, to wander out into the world.
“Something else called deep within me / I was looking for disharmony / A place where I could scream and be left alone / A place where buildings felt cold to the bone.”
The video is fittingly stark and primal, filmed in a rather eerie looking field, in front of the blinding blare of truck headlights. Stein is depicted as something of a ghostly presence.
“A few of us headed out to a deserted stretch of road nearby,” she recalls. “The headlights of the truck, the misty night air, the insects flying in and out of frame, projected the right energy for the track. L.O.T.F is me reflecting on a sun kissed childhood growing up in Australia. The endless starry skies, vast coastline, the distance between us and the rest of the world. All of this is tinged with a deep melancholy as I recall these years in my rearview mirror.”