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Blues-rock duo She Keeps Bees are back in business this week with album number four, 'Eight Houses'. Here again they present a moody mixture of their sparse, tense rock songs (think Patti Smith meets White Stripes), countryish fingerpicked songwriter business and slinky, synth-led pop numbers which are a little reminiscent of latter-era Polly Harvey. Guest appearances here include Sharon van Etten (admirers of hers are very likely to enjoy this too), and our Kim is a big fan, which are both big recommendations as far as I'm concerned.
Broadly speaking this album seems to be front-loaded with the rockers, with the slower paced numbers being more prevalent on side B. A striking exception is 'Raven' towards the end of the album, with very effective use of sharply contrasting grunge dynamics as it accelerates from a sultry slow-burning plod into a sudden electric blast of fizzing distortion, pounding drums and full-voiced crooning. For the first time they're in a studio with a proper producer, Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunter, Dirty Projectors, etc) and some guest stars to fill out the arrangements when needed, and while 'Eight Houses' might not win any awards for innovation, Larrabee is an unique and compelling songwriter and none of the emotional heft of her compositions is lost to the more produced sound they're rocking this time round. Thumbs up.
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