An album of fire, spirit and sweat – and sometimes that’s all you need.
Reef Younis 2011
We know what to expect from She Keeps Bees: Jessica Larrabee’s salt-and-spit vocal, wailing into a sultry exhaustion as drummer (and beau) Andy LaPlant diligently hammers the skins to add a thumping distinction to the fizzing amp crackle.
It was this raw dynamic which made debut album, Nests, stomp your attention into submission with Larrabee powering and purring away. But after ‘doing a Bon Iver’ and heading off to the isolation of the mountains to record their follow-up, Dig On, the results here are a little different to what has come before.
On Nests, there was force and frustration; it’s an album driven by the snarl of the city streets, fighting for every square inch of its embattled escape from NYC’s confines. You could feel the clamour in Larrabee’s vocal as she willed and wailed to dominant effect, but throughout Dig On she’s noticeably mellower.
Musically, the angry guitar blasts and tub-thumping percussion have largely been dispensed with, and although the fierce stomp hasn’t quite become a shuffle, its background presence allows the vocals to come on deliciously dense. It owes a lot to Larrabee’s forceful performance, with Saturn Return’s slow burn striking a forceful PJ Harvey chord before See Me really lets her bellow.
Laying it on thick and languid, Make You My Moon melts into Black Mountain territory, while Farmer, with its chunky chords and throaty wails, cranks up the volume and temperature before breaking into a howling fury. But it’s Blind to the Cup that commands your attention most strikingly, and perhaps best characterises the album. Minus the Larrabee caterwaul, it ghosts through a softer side of sensual hums and brooding whispers, instantly reminding us of She Keeps Bees’ devilishly seductive promise.
Dig On retains much of the rustic simplicity of its predecessor – fundamentally still just one guitar, one kit and two voices. But despite the fact it lacks the consistent firecracker moments of album one, it’s still heavily charged with fire and spirit and sweat. And sometimes that’s all you need.