The haunting chords of blues rock band She Keeps Bees’ seventh album Eight Houses are alone beautiful, but combined with the sultry vocals of lead singer Jessica Larrabee, the sound is exquisite. Formed in 2006, the Brooklyn-based outfit is made up of Larrabee and her fellow bandmate and drummer, Andy LaPlant.The talented duo have been reaping success since their earlier album Nests, which garnered widespread praise; The Observer dubbed the LP “soulful and defiantly retro”, a comment which perfectly captures the band’s earlier vibe. She Keeps Bees began life unquestionably rooted in rock territory, as they created an angrier, heavier and more stomping collection of hits compared with their newest ventures, which tiptoe into blues and even folk rock territory. Yet despite this small transition, the sound of She Keeps Bees’ new album, Eight Houses, is by no means any less striking. Instead, it is delightfully understated, and soul still remains at the centre of the band’s appeal.
Eight Houses coaxes its listeners in through tales of independence, defiance, politics and identity, with a staggering dominance. "Bow to the power/ make sure it knows how heavy it is / be not completely consumed / do not surrender” Larrabee purrs in ‘It Is What It Is', an intensely loaded single sung with such provocative yet serene vocals. Solemn chords and muffled echoes creep into the backing of the track, layered with slowed percussionist beats in a disarming combination. ‘It Is What It Is’ is a truly staggering start to the album. Eight Houses is not just sheer noise or reckless rebellion; it is a collection of inspiring messages, delivered with such composure and poise that they are impossible to shake off.
Tranquillity flows throughout the remainder of the album alongside an intense energy. ‘Greasy Grass’ showcases this flawlessly; it is a track that delves deep into America’s troubled history, charged with fuzzy electric guitar and held together by Larrabee’s boundless vocals. The result is invincible. The pace picks up ever so slightly with ‘Burning Bowl’, but generally, the album remains cool and controlled.
Larrabee has said of the band: “I sing until my stomach hurts while Andy beats the shit out the drums”. Having listened to the album, this statement comes alive. Larrabee’s powerful vocals pour out of her with such alluring intensity; I can only imagine the size of her diaphragm. As for Andy, ‘beating the shit out the drums’ conjures an image of a reckless, clashing rebellion, yet I feel a beating in LaPlant’s case renders an entirely different meaning. LaPlant plays the drums with astounding force, yet he extracts from them a sound not unhinged and messy but impeccably beautiful.
Eight Houses is one of the most spellbinding albums I have listened to in a long time. Trust me, it is well worth it.
Words - Claudia Turnbull
Eight Houses is out now
Watch the album teaser here