A Band of Bees / The Bees

Sunshine Hit Me

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The Bees prance around the same psychedelic pop themes and tones of the Beta Band on Sunshine Hit Me. But somehow they take things to a whole other level, as their familiarity with vintage instruments and addictive laid-back swagger help them avoid the pretension that sometimes follows the Beta Band. Where the Isle of Wight duo's peers might name-check the Beach Boys, the Bees simply use them as a subtle starting point. Gentle harmonies mix perfectly with ornate horns that seem straight off a Stereolab album. It's hard to say what's more compelling about the great "Punchbag": Is it the lyric "I'm too much for caged monkeys" or the utterly warped beat that shuffles back on itself like a stoned boxer? The Bees don't linger in one musical genre like so many neo-psychedelic bands. Instead, they perfect one style and then move on to another, and somehow it all fits together perfectly. The lazy throwback jazz of "Angryman" fits snugly alongside the sublime, wobbly dub of "No Trophy." The latter really is stunning, sounding as if it were recorded in the heart of Jamaica rather than on a semi-desolate island. "A Minha Menina" (an Os Mutantes cover) gives the White Stripes a run for their money, as dollops of mad blues energy and a fuzzy guitar beg for inclusion on some future Nuggets compilation. The final five tracks are surprising in their adherence to mellow dynamics, showing that the Bees are wholly confident to end their debut with peaceful pianos, somber organs, muted trumpets, and a general sense of serenity. "Zia" is even reminiscent of contemporary slow-drip songs from Lambchop, only without the irony. The Bees emerge as true masters of atmosphere with the swirling, delightful Sunshine Hit Me.

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