She Keeps Bees: Kinship (BB Island )

Four years after the release of Eight Houses, the NYC rockers return with an album which focuses on political, personal and environmental issues

Released May 10th, 2019 via BB Island / By Ian Stanley
She Keeps Bees: Kinship (BB Island ) Clocking in at just over half an hour Kinship, the new LP by storied NYC alt. rock unit She Keeps Bees is a plea to people and governments to listen to a message of shared struggle with the environment. And at a time when singer/guitarist Jessica Larrabee recently lost her father and then moved with the intention of starting a family with 'Bees drummer Andy LaPlant, the feeling throughout this album is one of concern for the future as well as sadness and regret for the past.

Throughout this album the vibe is ethereal, smoking and seemingly far more delicately considered than before. While the usual sensation from a She Keeps Bees is one of dirt and rage, the removal of distorted guitars and hollering vocals and introduction of keyboards gives an even more pared back feel. Rather than being naked, the album is flayed to the bone. And it suits the constant confrontation with natural themes – “here comes the ocean”, “Neptune’s horses” and “sea ice”. There’s a definitive clarity in the direction for the album.

That clarity is demonstrated with a video clip that She Keeps Bees worked on with visual artists Lizzy Brooks and Laura Cohen. Laura Cohen explains: "We were trying use the themes present in the album, such as the destruction and redistribution of the natural world, to highlight how humanity has become blind to the way we've hastened our eventual demise as a species”

Bleak as it is at times, the songs themselves can be uplifting. As with songs such as Ocean showing the untamed freedom of water, and album opener Hawk, which not only proves that Jess Larrabee’s voice is capable of making a blues song from tuning a top string, but also achieves a sense of connection with a bird of prey. No matter how far away.

And when there is a leaning towards the likes of Portishead in a lilting, blues drenched vocal or PJ Harvey in a shimmering, raw cello, it isn’t because She Keeps Bees have deviated far from the initial feelings found on earlier releases, such as Minisink Hotel, Nests or even Eight Houses, it is because they have to evolve, as they want us to.

By finishing on ‘Sea Ice’ the album draws on all its themes and the concerns since completing 2014’s Eight Houses. Themes of loss of loved ones that “wandered off into the darkness alone” and loss of environment and “sea ice” melting. It works as a measured conclusion rather than what could be a preaching finale.

For She Keeps Bees the change of pace from previous albums to Kinship is marked. It becomes more of a thought process and an argument for all the worries past and present of Jess Larrabee and the band. With more personal landmarks potentially on the way in both Larrabee and LaPlant’s life those concerns continue to dominate future albums. 4/5