Thursday, December 18, 2008

Five Unjustly Overlooked Albums of 2008 - Part 2

I didn't forget about this list! If you missed Part 1, check it out. Now here's the other half:

She Keeps Bees
Self-released, 2008

Nests isn't an album that hides behind effects pedals or clever song titles - it's just a series of songs sung over frill-less guitar and drums. And that's what makes its quality so impressive. The album hinges entirely on the singing and songwriting of founder Jess Larrabee, and she delivers. I've seen a lot of reviewers try to classify She Keeps Bees as an indie rock album, comparing the music to the White Stripes (which is not inaccurate, I guess), but what it really is is back-to-the-basics alternative blues. There's an indie rock sensibility to it, but the songs themselves are skeletal blues numbers.

Larrabee's voice alone could carry the album; she's a singer of rare talent. However, the guitars and drums, though clearly there to support her singing, are also brilliantly gritty. A self-assured, solid, no-nonsense album, Nests deserves a listen.


The Secret Life of Sofia
Seven Summits
Self-Released, 2008

OK, I'm kind of copying Pop Tarts Suck Toasted here, but I was into this band way before I started reading PTST. The Secret Life of Sofia is a folksy band from Brooklyn, but "folk" may be misleading, because unlike most folk music, TSLOS's music is thickly layered, complex and brooding. I don't think a comparison to Radiohead would be out of line.

Seven Summits is a concept album that tells a series of stories about mountain-climbing. Yeah, it's as odd as it sounds, but in the end, the stories meld into a much larger commentary about human vulnerability, survival in a world one can't control, the drive for exploration and the need to aspire to goals we may not even understand. There are things I don't care for in the album, but in concept, the album embodies a bold vision, and in execution, it delivers beautiful and profound music that will seep deep into your soul.


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