She Keeps Bees
Ba Da Bing
It’s been five years between She Keeps Bees albums – and maybe another five since I remembered to listen to this band (though I loved them when I first heard them) – and though constant comparisons to Cat Power might once have plagued this Brooklyn Duo, it’s clear with the release of Kinship that Jessica Larrabee (vocals/guitar) and Andy LaPlant (drums and percussion, engineering/producing) have emerged as “the more consistent Cat Power” – it’s everything good about Chan Marshall’s sound ever with none of the derailing drama.
Or like a more acoustic, calmed version of The Kills (say, if they’d been channeling Mazzy Star) She Keeps Bees has the deep (sometimes dark) lyrics but the stories are guided by a serenity with the music – a campfire-style of indie-folk that is soul-stirring and beautiful.
Listening to these perfectly-formed (but utterly ramshackle) songs has reminded me of the power of this duo and the magic in their back-catalogue. And though Kinship is so much a continuation it’s also feeling very much like a high water mark – there’s something deeply mercurial about songs like Longing and First Quarter Moon.
I’m hearing Joan as Police Woman at times here (the title track) and even the most recent Norah Jones (also her high water mark) seems another apt comparison.
Right from the grizzled-guitar of opening Hawk, where Larrabee reminds us of her spiritual way of singing, it’s so easy to be hooked by this set of songs. Coyote has that skeletal feel of just Larrabee crooning over her own rudimentary guitar riff, a slow build until LaPlant joins with a brittle backbeat and strings allow the song to soar. It has that Patti Smith majesty – where the combination of a lyric, the singing of it and the framing of the vocal and words creates a power the page could never offer on its own, one that the stage further elevates.
The Joan Wasser/Norah Jones comparison first comes into frame for me with the brilliant one-two of Dominance and Breaking Weight.
But to single out songs and to name titles doesn’t do a lot. These pieces cling together, they need each other – just as LaPlant and Larrabee do. The reaslisation of the goal is in the finished product here. A wonderful album. Deceptively slight. There’s so much in this – and all in just a half-hour of listening. But you’ll be spellbound and playing it over again almost instantly.
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She Keeps Bees