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December 2014
The Spirit of the Beehive
"The Spirit of the Beehive
"
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There is something rather dark and mysterious about a band that takes its name from a classic Spanish film that focuses on its protagonist, a young girl, who becomes fascinated by the 1931 horror movie, Frankenstein. And with an album cover that portrays a child in a bee costume positioned in front of a tombstone saying, “Here Lies Mom-n-Dad Now Their Gone Isn’t That Sad,” you can’t help but be intrigued, if not a bit disturbed. The Spirit of the Beehive is a local fledgling outfit who has popped up on my radar this past year, appearing on numerous bills, oftentimes at DIY spaces. The band has further grabbed my attention with its debut self-titled full-length album, which was recorded by The Weaks/ex-Dangerous Ponies, Evan Bernard and Chris Baglivo, and released via rising Philly indie label Ranch Records.  
 
The record’s opening track, “Roll Over,” begins with an eerie instrumentation before a languid female voice comes in with barely intelligible lines. “Cycles in and out of morphine hazes. Finding spaces between your floorboards. And I watch the dust move.” Thankfully the group provides us with lyrics on its Bandcamp page; otherwise, the beautifully poetic verses filled with drug-fueled imagery would be lost in the wash of power chords and feedback. “All lost in the black market. To wait in the fix aisle, I roll over.” You also get a sense of the band’s lo-fi, DIY aesthetic when you are abruptly taken out of the world, created by the album’s first, with studio chatter before moving on to the next track. With “Short Walk,” you can’t help but feel the influences of greats like Nirvana and more recently Creepoid with the hushed vocals and sonic bursts. These two tracks set the tone for the first half of the LP, where you travel in and out of the territories of dream pop and shoegaze when the female lead vocals grab a hold of you and then the grungier, harder-edged side takes over with the male lead. This juxtaposition provides quite an enjoyable balance that I actually wished went on longer throughout the record.
 
It’s not until “Ether,” where the two combine forces, changing the dynamic of their relationship. The title of the song suggests that you might be finding something more ethereal; however, the driving bass line provides a sense of urgency throughout the track. It also marks the point where the male lead begins to dominate the rest of the album, while taking on some of the characteristics of its counterpart. What remains a constant is a psychedelic, drug-filled angst full of guitar licks and distortion, giving off the vibe of a band that is here to rock, and they don’t care if you are ready for it or not.
 
The Spirit of the Beehive closes out their ambitious LP with the longest and cleanest sounding recording on the album, “Fever Dream,” demonstrating that they don’t need to hide behind studio effects, while making you wonder where their follow-up release will go next. It’s an eclectic and modern sounding record that also pulls from past genres I hold close to my chest. I highly recommend that you go download it ASAP. - Q.D. Tran

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Album Review: Ten Stories - mewithoutYou

Album Review: Ten Stories - mewithoutYou

One of the more compelling narratives mewithoutYou’s career has lent itself to is the band’s quest to find solace in its faith. At first, they seemed utterly lost in it; their first two records, [A-->B] Life and Catch for us the Foxes, are feverish, frantic post-hardcore albums characterized by heavily distorted guitars and Aaron Weiss’s panicked poetry on the conflict of faith in a secular world. They revisited this conflict on Brother, Sister, but with a sense of triumph deftly characterized in its final lyric: “I do not exist, only You exist.” Still, this surrender that made Brother, Sister a record of cathartic victory swallowed It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright. The very title of their fourth LP suggests the born-again zealotry that defines it. Drawing inspiration not from conflict but from joy and folk tales, the post-hardcore sound totally eschewed in favor of Jeff Mangum-esque storytelling and vocalizing. It’s All Crazy! was a hugely divisive record, and more importantly, one that seemed to mark the end of an arc - mewithoutYou were no longer mewithoutYou as we knew them.

Which brings us to Ten Stories, and also begs the question: What will mewithoutYou do having now escaped this narrative that has defined the band for their entire career? Nothing too crazy - Ten Stories finds them as they always have been, playing upon their past without bowing to it, the result being a record that sounds both distinctly theirs and unlike anything they’ve done before. The opener, “February 1878,” is a riff on one of the classics in the band’s back catalog, “January 1979,” but though mewithoutYou have given specific songs sequels before, “February 1878” isn’t a sequel. It has verses with Weiss’s once-prominent wild-sermon delivery, but its riff is lighter; its chorus more demure. “January 1979” details a car crash Weiss witnessed, and the apathy he couldn’t escape from feeling. “February 1878” is about an elephant in a circus train. The link between them is analogous to how Ten Stories fits into mewithoutYou’s catalog. The sound on Ten Stories bears traces of mewithoutYou’s more aggressive roots but is too light to truly align with that phase in their career. At the same time, it’s also nowhere near as insistently folksy as It’s All Crazy! What we have is a wedding between the two eras, a little rugged, but also a little inspiring as Weiss’s intricate lyricism is brought out not over chugging rock or campfire songs but gentle, mostly straightforward indie rock.

And about those lyrics: Ten Stories is what it says it is, a collection of fables populated by animals and Weiss avatars, and though the stories themselves are confusing to make sense of without the aid of liner notes, they’re too well-orchestrated and articulated to glaze over. There’s a dense record here you can make sense of with a little extracurricular effort, but there’s also a powerful one you can simply hear and get. Exemplified in the cyclical closer “All Circles,” Ten Stories is a record whose strength lies in its catchiness. Weiss sings of many things on Ten Stories, but he signs off with one triumphant realization: “All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin, and only in their leaving can they ever come back round.” It’s a simple message that resounds over the preceding record and is almost too explicit to not apply to the band itself. As mewithoutYou have entered a new phase in their career, “All Circles” reminds us that though they may have arrived at one answer in their journey, they aren’t done searching. And though Ten Stories is packed with worthy additions to mewithoutYou’s catalog (particularly on its wilder second half), Ten Stories is defined by the future it promises. Itmay not be as drop-your-jaw stunning as Brother, Sister or [A-- >B] Life, but it is good - very good, actually. Enough to make you believe that with this new sound, they can create something of that caliber again. Until then, enjoy Ten Stories for what it is. It will reward you. The album is available for purchase HERE. - Adam Downer

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