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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: Get Disowned - Hop Along

Album Review: Get Disowned - Hop Along

A simple interwoven electric guitar riff accents rough, acoustic guitar strums, and then singer/songwriter Frances Quinlan’s wispy, lilting vocals enter the equation like a glimpse of sunlight parting the clouds of an overcast sky. Thus, begins Hop Along’s latest full-length album Get Disowned.
 
Opener “Some Grace,” a subtle bare-boned introduction, shares a bit of the fragility and vulnerability that can be found in Quinlan’s lyrics. The song morphs into faint electronic bleeps dissolving into a serene calm. However, the pending storm arises with the following track and the album’s lead single “Tibetan Pop Stars,” which cuts through the tranquility with boisterously dirty power chords and rolling thunder drumbeats. Once again, the vocals seem to play peacemaker, a calming force among the turmoil. That is, until the chorus takes flight, then falls to earth with the repeated lines “nobody deserves you the way that I do,” which gradually rises from the ashes of a broken heart. “No Good Al Joad” is paced by steady downhill bursts of acoustic guitar that is pierced by the interloping hammer of a pickaxe electric guitar. Quinlan’s vocals strain in an effect that expresses the emotive tug and pull of the narrative. This all comes to a head after a brief percussive interlude, which captures the ear signaling for audience participation. She reveals, “You are my favorite, because you are a long shot. You are my enemy, because you forgot.” This is just before pulling back into a corner to protect herself as she gathers the strength to share a bit of philosophical wisdom and universal truth: “Everybody is a little hard to love sometimes.”
 
With the precise production work of Algernon Cadwallader’s Joe Reinhart, Get Disowned is a balance between agitated artillery-style rock with intimate, late night confessional vocals that dig their nails into your skin while simultaneously whispering sweet nothings into your ear. Despite the constant presence of distinctly tenacious guitar thrashes, Quinlan’s lyrical message remains a priority. It is often aided by the fact that the vocals are directed at the listener. In this manner, Hop Along invites us into an emotionally turbulent household leaving no curtains drawn or door locked.
 
You can purchase Get Disowned via Hot Green Records. Hop Along will also be celebrating its release tomorrow night at The First Unitarian with Bandname, Little Big League and Mary Lattimore. - Michael Colavita

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