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Mouthful of Bees

Mouthful of Bees

(Afternoon; US: 5 May 2009; UK: 19 May 2009)

Trying to construct a descriptive box that would contain this Minneapolis ensemble is futile; the best approximation would to be speculate on the sound which would be produced if Bon Iver came out with a spacey jazz record or if the Beach Boys had ever hurled themselves headlong into the deep end of the prog pool. Soaring, layered harmonies intermingle with wandering instrumentals, swinging percussion and sharp guitar work on this self-titled collection of twelve songs.

Mouthful of Bees is an album for album lovers. Sure, there are standout tracks here: “Maybe When We’re Better Friends” is a gorgeous little folk tune, whereas “John Blackthorne” is more typically indie and will grab the casual listener; “Thomas Aquinas” is gloriously percussive; additionally, the mix of celestial vocals and somber jazz piano make “Snow Blanket” a highlight. However, to be truly enjoyed, the album must be played from start to finish. Only then is the tremendous sense of unity and flow the group weaves throughout truly apparent. This is a group drawing from a tremendous palette of musical colors and tones and the nuance and detail work make the overall picture breathtaking. Mouthful of Bees run the risk, at times, of being a little too cute for their own good: the track “Micky’s Bed” is self-referential (mentioning several band members by name including bassist Micky Alfano) and they scatter nods to Seinfeld (“Del Boca Vista”) and Shogun (“John Blackthorne”) in their song titles. Yet, the music is so fascinating and engaging that it’s hard to hold them at fault for exposing their total hipness.


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