She Keeps Bees

Eight Houses

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Since their 2006 debut, Brooklyn duo She Keeps Bees have always stuck close to their wheelhouse of lean, bluesy rock tunes, letting singer/guitarist Jessica Larrabee's soulful voice dictate the subtle dynamics of their minimal guitar and drums setup. They've remained a very contained unit, self-producing and self-releasing their three albums and various EPs and singles. For their fourth album, 2014's Eight Houses, they've hired some outside help in the form of producer Nicolas Vernhes (Spoon, Dirty Projectors, Deerhunter) and L.A. indie label Future Gods. Letting a label do some of the dirty work certainly eases some stress, though it has little to do with their sound. But, by bringing in Vernhes, Larrabee and drummer Andy LaPlant have managed to gel even closer, tightening up their already sparse sound to deliver their most focused record yet. Their retro bent and bluesy style remain, but Vernhes has managed to gently draw out some of their assets, even as their overall sound feels more condensed. There's a lovely richness to the horn-laden, Sharon Van Etten-assisted "Owl," which is contrasted by the bleak, haunted dirge "Burning Bowl" and the eerily lonesome "Wasichu." On "Greasy Grass," the slow-building guitars growl a little deeper as Larrabee's voice exudes a cool menace leading up the song's noisy crescendo, which is followed by the equally aggressive "Raven." Darkness has been a frequent companion on She Keeps Bees' earlier releases, but most of Eight Houses seems to take it a step further, verging between sad and threatening, yet ultimately powerful. By the time the moody album closer "Is What It Is" reaches its radiant statement of "You are worthy...I am worthy," it feels like a ray of sun.

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