by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
She Keeps Bees makes music to listen to at night. Late night hang outs, sitting alone in the dark, a roaring fire outside with some wine, these are the settings that do a record like Kinship justice. The power of She Keeps Bees lies in the nuance, the understated. It’s Jessica Larrabee’s vocals moving like smoke over Andy LaPlant’s kindling crackling drum beats. It’s intimate music. A quiet rage that is intoxicating, inviting the listener in, leaving them unguarded for the jabs and barbs that come their way through the music. It’s that record someone has put on at a party that keeps warranting your attention, drawing you in until you’ve ceased communicating with anyone except the music.
Once again producing themselves, the music of Kinship continues the sparse, moody quality of their previous albums. Album opener “Hawk” feels like an incantation, a call to worship. Just one note plucked while you’re called to attention, but it’s not a meek album. The music has a strut to it. There’s a confidence in the music. It knows it’s good and doesn’t need to clutter itself up with a full band or arrangement. Its power is felt full on with just a guitar line and some drums, maybe an organ or e-piano, some strings that come in when appropriate. Their melodies are always satisfying, going where you would hope. Nothing feels unresolved, at least musically. It’s just cool music.
But it’s also emotional music. Kinship is an album focused on emotion and the unconscious realm, looking in from the outside, and dichotomies. There’s a fixation on nature, both environmental and human, our relationships to each other and the planet we call home. The damage that is done to both is also explored. The quickened pace of that destruction through these distressing times. Lead single “Coyote” is a song about folk singer/environmental activist Katie Lee and water is a constant theme throughout as it was in Katie Lee’s songs. The song titles themselves like the aforementioned “Hawk” and “Coyote” along with others like “Ocean” and “Breaking Weight” call to mind forces, predators that rule their domain but at the same time for all their power are being compromised and endangered by our treatment of this planet.
Across the ten songs on the album She Keeps Bees continue to do what they do best. Kinship is an album that asks us to think on our home and our relationship to it and to each other. “Dominance is a dead end” Larrabee sings on “Dominance”. It’s an album that feels informed by loss but also of mind of what comes after, rebirth. If bees have become the avatars for the wreckage humans are leaving behind, there is still that hint of hope. There are those out there working on keeping them. “Innocence of wildness survive our arrogance” she sings on “Sea Ice”. It’s a nice thought.