Albums of 2014 #12 - She Keeps Bees - Eight Houses

She Keeps Bees
Eight Houses
bb*island. Released October 13th.

Eight Houses, the fourth She Keeps Bees record sees the duo at their most devastating and exquisite yet, combining minimalistic and subtly intense song-craft, full of equal measures fiery passion and spacious intimacy with raw power and emotion. There's moments that bring goosebumps throughout (the devastatingly beautiful "Is What it Is" and "Radiance") and moments that will blow your mind with their gut-dropping aggression and life ("Raven", "Both Sides"), both are incredible. 

Those stark moments are outstanding, doing away with any abrasive soundscapes for full out spine-tingles, "Is What it is" gets under your skin as a beautiful, brooding piano led wonder, there's little else but the plaintive twinkles and gentle percussive skips, it allows Jess' vocals to radiate with pure, haunting emotion and similarly "Radiance" continues the sparse, never-rushed pacing, a luxurious wonder that draws in the listener with hard-hitting emotions and grace. “Wasichu” needs a mention too, highlighting their master of stripped back soundscapes with hypnotic guitar and an almost pleading vocal.

"Both Sides" on the other hand is an utter beast with a sound more akin to the She Keeps Bees' earlier live shows but with even more grit and ambition, there's a raw, bluesy guitar riff and big percussive beats that swagger throughout Jess' animated vocal. "Raven" is more of a slow-burn, a build-up release of brutal, jagged guitar and pounding percussion.

Ferocious and angry one moment, weighty and sublime the next, get drawn into the world of She Keeps Bees.


She Keeps Bees #10 - An Interview With

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Resurrecting an old feature here, the first interview for almost three years. It's something I will hopefully/probably try and bring back on a more frequent basis as I find it rewarding and you also get a break from my ramblings (well shortly)...

Given that this blog is basically a diary of my personal music taste I am always keen to know what inspires artists that I like, what they are listening to and who they would recommend themselves. Hopefully it will open the door to discover even more great music and perhaps learn a thing or two about some of my (and your) favourite artists at the same time.

She Keeps Bees

have long been a favourite of mine. It's almost five years since I first saw Jess and Andy perform in London and since I've seen them on at least a dozen occasions around the capital (and Reading festival one time too). Their new album Eight Houses, their fourth, was released last week via bb*island here in the UK and Future Gods in the US. It's been extremely well received and has entranced me on my every listen yet - it may even, already, rival Nests as my favourite SKB record - some task given my connection with it as my band introduction and memories of being blown away at The Old Blue Last one cold, Sunday night.

Eight Houses sees the duo at their most devastating and exquisite yet, combining minimalistic and subtly intense song-craft, full of equal measures fiery passion and spacious intimacy with raw power and emotion. There's moments that bring goosebumps throughout (the devastatingly beautiful "Is What it Is" and "Radiance") and moments that will blow your mind with their gut-dropping aggression and life ("Raven", "Both Sides"), both are incredible. The album comes, of course, highly recommended by me - you will not be disappointed.

Many thanks to Jess for answering a few of my questions.

*********************

What inspired you to start making music?

Music gave me comfort and solace as a kid. When you play an instrument you always have a friend. My father was a musician - he could speak that language and he taught it to me. He was a drummer - played in bands all over the east coast and down south. We would listen to music in the car and he would teach me how to break down rhythms. I loved that sense of community in music and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Of your own songs, which are you proudest?

We are both proud of Counter Charm - we collaborated with our friend, Gaspar Claus who is an incredible cellist. We recorded it at our friend's restaurant called West Country Girl on Halloween in Paris. Very magical night.

The taster tracks we’ve heard from the new record

Eight Houses

have been starker, more controlled and emotive than on

Dig On. 

Is this raw yet warm sound something that you purposely looked to create?

I think it's natural to ebb and flow from aggressive to receptive qualities. As we gathered and cut the songs for the new album we realized it was going to be a slow-burn. Andy and I were allowed to focus on mood and performance without worrying about technicalities when using a producer and engineer. We took our time with this album - it was carved through collaboration.

Do you have a favourite track to play live?

I always like playing All or None/ Dark Horse. It's different every time and people seem to respond to the strip down nature of it.

Do you have any pre-gig rituals? Can we expect more banter about jeans when you hit the UK in November?

We have our friend Adam playing with us now. We like to connect and try to calm down before the show. You can always count on me to say something about what I'm wearing - my nerves take over and half the time I don't even remember what I said after the show is over.

Which artists – musical or non-musical - do you feel have influenced your work and continue to do so?

Jason Molina - Nina Simone - Patti Smith - The music found by the Djs Chances With Wolves - people that freely and selfless give to the community they nurture.

Which song do you wish you had written?

Night Owl

by Cliff Edwards

If you were asked to curate your own stage at a festival, who would you want to invite along?

The Love Story - Nina Simone - Magnolia Electric Company - Bo Diddley - Howlin Wolf - Jimi Hendrix - Broadcast - Sharon Van Etten - The Kinks - Tom Waits

Recommend an artist that isn’t getting the attention they deserve.

Metal Alvin - Last Good Tooth - Abraham King - Oquoa - Eddi Front - Slothrust - Dark Furs - The Naked Hearts - Little Sister

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A selection of songs by She Keeps Bees and those by acts/artists recommended by Jess.

She Keep Bees #9 - Radiance

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It seems new She Keep Bees songs are coming in our ears as often as weeks anew, that's never something to grumble about, "Radiance", the third track to be taken from the Brooklyn duo's forthcoming LP Eight House (available to pre-order now from Rough Trade) is another beauty too...

"Radiance" continues the stark, sparse mood set by earlier tasters "Is What It Is" and "Owl", this time without the backing of Sharon Van Etten's haunting harmonies - that's probably a good thing - we all love Sharon but it should be the case that SKB's can create the wow factor themselves with no need to use a 'name' to create publicity- in an ideal world that is of course and I hope this slow-paced, luxurious wonder draws in fans, new and old alike. It surely should, radiating not with swagger or drive but hard-hitting emotions and grace. This is a special band alright.

She Keep Bees #8 - Owl

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A double whammy of good news, a new She Keeps Bees London show announced (at The Lexington on November 15th - details) and a new song, the second taken from their forthcoming LP Eight Houses - due September 22nd in the UK - "Owl.

Following the delightfully controlled "Is That it is" with another track that gets firmly under the skin, a slow, brooding beauty that radiates through ringing guitar patterns, never rushed beats and Jess' soulful, vocal. It hit hards - find out for yourself below:

The album is available to pre-order now via Rough Trade (and other places too).

She Keeps Bees #7 - Is What It Is

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I've almost two weeks worth of new music to catch up on now, time before, during and after Glasto has flown by and I've been struggling to cope. I'll start with the very, very welcome return to She Keeps Bees.

SKB's are a band I've seen live probably about ten times now and they are always wonderful, Jess has this brilliant personality that shines through, with her amusing anecdotes (usually about her clothes?) bringing chuckles in-between raw and powerful songs full of fiery heart that marriage chunky guitar riffs with understated menace and melody.

New track "Is What It Is" does away with the abrasive soundscapes for full out goosebumps, getting under your skin with a beautifully stark piano led track. There's little else but the plaintive twinkles and gentle percussive skips, it allows Jess' vocals to radiate with pure, haunting emotion. An absolute stunner.

Eight Houses is due via Future Gods (US) / BB*Island (EUR) in late September. With pre-orders starting to appear all we now need are some UK dates

She Keeps Bees #6 - Counter Charm

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I've been away for four of five days which means I've got lots of new exciting news to write about as well as trying to tackle my increasing backlog of draft posts, starred messages and bands I've got in my head to write about, though jumping straight to the front of the queue are blog favourites She Keeps Bees who surprised me with news of a new 7" single release.

Last years Dig On was one of my favourite records of the year, raw emotion and power that hits you right in the gut, their live shows even better (as confirmed by excellent, packed out shows at The Lexington and Brixton Windmill) and I wrongly assumed Jess and Andy would be taking this year to rest, recuperate and record their next record. It seems they are already one step ahead of the game, with two tracks recorded as long as last October now being released on a new 45 entitled Counter Charm (a track which I'm sure I can remember from those aforementioned shows).

The lead track would feel equally at home on Dig On, around the signature, bare sounds of She Keeps Bees   (Jess's bluesy guitar riffs circle around Andy's Clattering drums) "Counter Charm" is a little part with menace most part delicious with Gaspar Claus's cello echoes causing murmurs while Jessica's vocals purr and enchant (see the wonderful live session version for further proof).

It's very doubtful "Blue Moon" made the release as an ode to Manchester City winning the title last season (especially given it's Halloween recording date) but the She Keeps Bees cover is a strong one, low vocals and a laid-back acoustic guitar start the track as far away from the pissed off, hard-hitting SKB of records, heavenly backing harmonies only enhancing the Sunday afternoon vibe

The band will be selling the recording on their upcoming tour dates, they play London's Cargo (urgh!) next Wednesday July 25th - tickets.



My Favourite 25 Albums of 2011 - Part Two

Just Music That I Like’s Twenty Five Favourite Abums of 2011 aka The Best 25 Albums of the Year Part Two


Direct Links to Albums: 25 - 21 // 20 - 16 // 15 - 11 // 10 - 6 // 5 - 1

20. She Keeps Bees - Dig On
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She Keeps Bees released their third full length (although 'Minisink Hotel is sometimes ignored) 'Dig On' in July, the album only slightly deviates from the formula of previous album, 2009's 'Nests'. 'Dig On' does take a more slow-burning approach to the Brooklyn duo's (although I've seen them play a few shows as an expanded three piece this summer) beautifully stark and melancholic sound.

Opener "Saturn Returns" highlights this, stunningly sparse and intimate, the signature SKB dirty, bluesy sound hits you right in the gut with its raw emotion and power. "Farmer" and "Found You Out" highlight a heavier, loud and abrasive sound, Andy's pummelling drum beat is the perfect accompaniment for Jess's aggressive, chunky guitar and wailing vocals, her stunning vocals seem effortless and are instantly capable of stopping you in your tracks with their heavily charged, fiery spirit and range.

"Vulture" is a definite stand-out, the guitar is laid down thick and moody, the drum beat is tribal and rhythmic, fast paced; it'll blow your socks off. Tempo changes are part and parcel of the SKB sound, never bettered than on the album stand-out "All or None/Dark Horse". Starting stripped back, just Jess's brooding whispers purring then slowly and gently it builds up to an emotional climax of angry guitar blasts and crashing drum crescendos.

Equally seductive, powerful, 'Dig On' is an album that slowly reveals itself and gets firmly under your skin.

Get the album from Jess and Andy direct here

Saturn Return by She Keeps Bees



19. Be Forest - Cold
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Italian post-punk / cold-wave trio Be Forest create dark and chilly guitar based soundscapes that sound like they were made in the 80's, conjugating atmospheres float between threatening rhythms and luscious melodies that are the perfect antidote for your next door neighbours repeated listens to 'Walking in the Air' (I kid you fucking not).

Their debut album 'Cold' came out in March via We Were Never Being Boring (also available digitally at bandcamp), a listen to the track that introduced me to the band, "Florence" possibly sums up their sound better than any words from me could; thumping dark drums nestle amongst waves of prominent bass and echoey guitar sparkles. The ethereal lead vocals and celestial harmonies contrasting, otherworldy, gorgeous.

Another stand-out is "Dust", a brooding mood maintained with a hint of malice in the drums and bass-line, the vocals, whispered soft and dreamy are beautiful glistening amongst icy guitar howls. "Wild Brain's" catchy riffs have single written through them and closing track "Screaming Prayers" is possibly the most powerful and compelling of all, gone is the shining breeze of the guitars. Here the reverberating whirlpool of guitar noise is dark and threatening.

A short album at just half an hour but 'Cold' offers nine tracks that leave you more than satisfied and one that promises much for the future of Be Forest.

Be Forest - Dust by morrisday



18. Emmy The Great - Virtue
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Emmy The Great's second album 'Virtue' signalled an increasingly polished, mature approach to her song-craft, the eleven tracks that make up the album are an intimate and personal account of her break up with a former boyfriend who left her to join the church, she retains some of the youth and energy of her exceptional first album but 'Virtue' is an altogether more richer, deeper affair. Take the opener "Dinosaur Sex", highly literate and poetic metaphors smartly coupled with cohesive backing guitars and bubbling synths make for a smart, alluring cocktail.

Emmy's voice is crystal clear and beautiful throughout, never better than on "Paper Forest", starting with a simple melody that builds up in urgency with swirling strings and Emma's glorious voice, the more subtle "Exit Night's" narrative is equally staggering, her lyrical abilities really are second to none, the song is carried forward by a repetitive drum rhythm and light piano while Emma's effortless voice is sincere, sweet, perfect.

Closing song "Trellick Tower", the most direct account of her failed engagement is also the albums best track, a change from the (wonderful) instrumentation displayed throughout to a simple, stark piano ballad and it works with beautiful results, a genuinely heartbreaking album closure.

'Virtue' is a wonderfully put together album from an incredible talent and comes highly recommended.

A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep by Emmy The Great



17. Gazelle Twin - The Entire City
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(this is my original "review" posted in July here)
I decided I wasn't going to review Gazelle Twin's debut 'The Entire City', it has already received some fine reviews from reviewers (The Guardian 5/5, dis 8/10, FT 8/10 and even NME 8/10) far more capable and articulate than myself, instead I'll just do a piece highlighting why you should buy it. I'm crap at reviews anyway.

I first fell for the mysterious charm of Elizabeth Walling after hearing her debut single "Changelings" and a cover of Prince's "I Wonder U" late last year, its eerie atmospherics created a beautiful, mysterious experience. Hazy synths glide over Elizabeth's ethereal vocals, electronic processing shifts her voice to a ghostly whisper. Magnetic, immersive and stunning.

The follow up "I am Shell I Am Bone" was even better, undulating rhythms and pulsing drum-beat drive the track, equal parts dream and nightmare. Now with her debut full length Gazelle Twin has constructed her own otherworldly universe, to be consumed as one, 'The Entire City'. Dark and weird, stark and disturbing, bold and fascinating. For those with even a passing interest for surrealist, gothic artistry 'The Entire City' is a transfixing experience.

Third single "Men Like Gods" confirms her rite of passage, ominous and edgy. Then there are the harmonies on interlude "Far From Home" and "Bell Tower" and "Obelisk", one of the stand-outs, with a soul shivering chill that I can just picture sound-tracking a monochrome sci-fi film. It's not difficult to put Gazelle Twin in the same left-field visionary status as Fever Ray and Planningtorock. Add choral harmonies as beautiful as Dirty Projectors' and military percussion as precise as These New Puritans and the unique mind of Gazelle Twin and you've just created one of 2011's essential albums.

I think that non-review turned into a bit of a review, still, the point I'm making is the same - buy the fucking album. Self-funded throughout, it's the least Elizabeth deserves.

Gazelle Twin - Men Like Gods



16. Blouse - Blouse
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I've been following Blouse since they put the hypnotic "Into Black" on their bandcamp page about a year ago now, it's still as gorgeous and seductive as when I first heard it, the outstanding piece of retro-futurism is unsurprisingly one of the highlights of the Portland trio's debut, self-titled, LP.

From the eerie shimmers of opener "Firestarter", awash with chunky synth beats and reverb heavy guitars to the sultry, retro feel of "Videotapes" 'Blouse' sounds like it could have been recorded for an 80's Commodore game, combining minimal chill-wave beats with woozy dream-pop led by the alluring power of Charlie Hilton's icy, nonchalant voice, "Videotapes" urgent, bass-driven rhythms is one of their finest tracks on the album.

"Time Travel" is more dark wave than the dream-pop tag I earlier labelled them with, shadowy synth blares, pulsating percussion and deep bass-lines combine with the slightly detached feeling of Charlie's soft whispers, after "Into Black! it's probably the choice track from the album. The echoey "Ghost Dreams" brings more haunted, melancholic moods led by chilly keyboard and rhythmic beats and "Fountain in Rewind" is a darker, mechanical dance number, slightly sinister yet compellingly beautiful.

Throughout skewered melodies, detached vocals and hazy ambience create an immerse beauty you can lose yourself in, you won't regret it either.

Firestarter by BLOUSE

She Keeps Bees #6 - Dig On

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I don't think I've mentioned She Keeps Bees for a while (I checked - it was February). It's a difficult thing maintaining this blog sometimes, the continual search for 'new / fresh' music means you forget about some bands who are close to your heart, She Keep Bees are certainly one such band who should have been featured again a lot sooner.

They released their third full length (although 'Minisink Hotel is sometimes ignored) 'Dig On' in July and played quite a few shows / festivals around Europe all summer long. I saw She Keeps Bees twice over the same weekend of August Bank Holiday (my third and fourth time this year) and they re-affirmed themselves as a fantastic live act. Jess and Andy know how to rock, this time around the addition of an additional guitarist adds intense sections of frenetic guitar with Jess's stunning vocals ranging from introspective, soft whisper to howling, fierce powerhouse. Andy holding the whole thing together behind the drum kit. Their last London show was probably their best yet, summed up by new track "All or None/Dark Horse" which reduced The Lexington to silence with its jaw-dropping strength and intensity.

The album only slightly deviates from the formula of 'Nests', 'Dig On' does take a more slow-burning approach to their beautifully stark and melancholic sound. Opener "Saturn Returns" highlights this well, sparse and intimate, the dirty, bluesy sound hits you right in the gut with its raw emotion. "Farmer" and "Found You Out" highlight a heavier, loud and abrasive sound, Andy's pummelling beat, Jess's aggressive chunky guitar and wailing vocals stop you in your tracks with their power and don't let you go.

"Vulture" is a definite stand-out, the guitar is laid down thick and moody, the drum beat is tribal and rhythmic, fast paced, it'll blow your socks off. Tempo changes are part and parcel of the SKB sound, never bettered than on the aforementioned highlight "All or None/Dark Horse". Starting stripped back, just Jess's brooding whispers purring then slowly and gently it builds up to an emotional climax of angry guitar blasts and crashing drum crescendos.

Get the album from Jess and Andy direct here. There may well be an autumn UK tour as they've a date booked in Liverpool 25th October,  I assume more are to follow.

Listen:
Saturn Return by She Keeps Bees
She Keeps Bees - Gimme