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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: Science & Advice - The Armchairs

Album Review: Science & Advice - The Armchairs

It should be readily apparent to anybody with a working set of eardrums that The Armchairs fall firmly in the same camp as a handful of other 60s-esque pop acts cropping up. But where exactly they draw inspiration from is somewhat more of a mystery, because this certainly isn't the simple pairing of Beatles and Beach Boys that we've come to expect. Instead, we're treated to an odd menagerie of Zombies, Kinks, and earlier, goofier Floyd (you know, before the rest of the band decided not to pickup Syd). This is a slight, but welcome, change of pace, and what's even more welcoming is the way they throw it all together. It seems that most bands, when under these prestigious influences, would either a) condense it all into pure power-pop confectionery or b) partake in the more indulgent qualities of psychedelia, to the point of tedium. The Armchairs manage to land it somewhere right in between, a sweet spot of controlled lunacy.

Opener "Grampa Yells Portents at Strangers" starts things off right with crazily shifting time signatures and vocal harmonies. It kind of feels like four songs in one, which proves representative of the album's feel as a whole; tracks are short, almost fragmented, but still intense and fully realized. If there's any obvious single, it's "Little Sammy Ghetz" which begins and ends with an irresistible interlocking guitar riff that makes it hard not to get some muscles twitching.

But The Armchairs seem to know better than to trifle with too many obvious hooks. Why do it the easy way when you can do it the fun way? This is an album populated by guitars, alternately crunchy and spacey, awesomely analog-sounding synths, and joyous harmonies. But it's also populated by mind-melting freakouts like "What For My Cow Eating There?" and tracks like the forty-nine second punk explosion "Harrison Ford". So, to get to the heart of it, Science & Advice is a record that manages to do all of these things with such panache making the album an impressive debut by the oddball but loveable quartet. You can stream and download the album here or purchase it at Punk Rock Payroll where it will come packaged in a handmade travel pillow - perfect for those partiers who never know where they’ll pass out at. (Cover art by Vincent Finazzo) - Joe Poteracki

 

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