wears the trousers magazine

she keeps bees: nests (2009)
July 28, 2009, 11:08 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,


She Keeps Bees
Nests ••••

On paper, She Keeps Bees sound a little like the White Stripes – a boy/girl duo armed with only an electric guitar and drums, playing rock-inflected blues and making a big noise – but it’s a comparison of the most superficial kind and besides, you’d need to swap the instruments and vocal duties around and cut out all the dancefloor-friendly choruses. Hailing from Brooklyn, Jessica Larrabee and boyfriend/producer/bandmate Andy LaPlant formed She Keeps Bees back in 2006. Following up their first LP Minisink Hotel – recorded DIY style in a bedroom – and this year’s four-track EP Revival, comes Nests, a second full-length effort with all the buzz and energy of a freshly made debut.

Moving out of the boudoir and into the studio has thankfully had an undetectable effect on their raw, DIY aesthetic, with Jessica’s sluicing guitar just as wild and gritty as ever and LaPlant’s thudding heartbeat rhythms keeping everything tight. The band claim a loving affiliation with soul artists such as Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding, but for most it’ll be their PJ Harvey-like blues that cry out gin-slicked stories of love and hate. Larrabee’s smoky vocals recall Chan Marshall and Fiona Apple at their most violent, with a fevered heat propelling both her restrained drawls and gospel-like evocations.

Lyrically, Nests is enigmatic enough to leave room for personal interpretation, but the strong veins of desire and aggression running through the album are undeniable. ‘Gimme’s sloping chords melt wildly into Larrabee’s revival of the explicit, devil music proverb “Work me daddy / like my back ain’t got no bone,” while the less obvious ‘Ribbon’ makes use of a clever mid-song switch from hearty gospel claps to low, hypnotic drum rhythms that allude solemnly to the sensual. Violence, love’s acute counterpart, runs through ‘Strike’, whose ever so slightly out of tune strings give it a demented, knife-edge hostility, while ‘My Last Nerve’s seething single note bends glower deliciously with a cold, aggravated threat.

Technically, Larrabee’s guitar compositions are far from complex, but are forged from that raw, exposed root that ‘stripped back’ music constantly seeks to anatomise. Like the best of songwriters, the pair intuitively know where to simmer and where to explode, rather then attempting to overcompensate their small arsenal of instruments with continuous, haphazard volume levels. Shimmying between rock, soul and blues, this is sexy, dangerous music – the sort that makes you feel you should be smoking a cigarette and sipping liquor while either lovin’ your man or fixing to shoot him. Coarse yet poetic, Nests is the kind of album that can’t help but exude a palpable, skin-tingling presence, like an all-over blush or a cold-sweat shiver, and is irrefutably deserving of a spot on the ‘best of 2009’ list.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 03/08/09; www.myspace.com/shekeepsbees


3 Comments so far
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Love Nests so much. Mmmm.

Comment by Anika

[…] Kate Miller-Heidke – Curiouser [Daniel Clatworthy 26/7] 32 She Keeps Bees – Nests [Charlotte Richardson Andrews 28/7] 33 Terra Naomi – Go Quietly [Alan Pedder 16/9] 34 The Donnas […]

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