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Bees in a Bottle Releases Junior Release  

I’m wowed by the new release The Sun Left and Took the Moon With It from Portland’s Bees in a Bottle. Chad and Christine McAllister’s reputation as one of the most thoughtful musical acts working today has long since been proven, but they are ratcheting up their game. It’s full of superb characterizations I find convincing at every turn. They aren’t content either with a cookie cutter approach. Each arrangement has something different to offer listeners. There’s no one size fits all approach to these eleven songs wrestling with the specter of loss. The McAllisters are just as much at home rocking out as they are turning the volume down and emphasizing a singer/songwriter approach. It’s the lyrical material, however, that really captures my attention.


I admire Christine McAllister’s penchant for memorable opening lines. “Wet Widow”, the album opener, kicks off with the couplet “If you came here like the rest/Just to see me cry” and only delves deeper from there. Her portrayal of an angry yet grieving widow contemptuous of the attention given to herself and her fallen partner gains from Chad McAllister’s corresponding electric guitar rage and Mark Powers’ hard-hitting drums.

The songs are first-person dialogues. I believe this increases their impact. There are no distant observers here; everything is close, too close, and the listener feels it. “You Alone” continues this approach and when she sings the first two lines, “When I walked away from you/It’s when I couldn’t take it anymore” isn’t just something you can appreciate aesthetically. Many listeners will relate. There’s anger here as well, not as pronounced, or as clear as we hear in the opener, but nonetheless palpable. The first half of the song, however, goes in a different direction than its predecessor and I appreciate the change in tone.

There’s resentment and grief colliding again in “Jealous Mistress”. It’s an uptempo look back from the partner left behind on a now dead musician who left her feeling undervalued and betrayed. Christine McAllister structures the lyrics differently than proceeding songs in shorter verses, but the final effect remains memorable. Mark Powers’ drumming is a key factor, once again, in the song’s success. “Magnetic” is the sound of staring into the abyss. A single repeating guitar note that changes gear a couple of times and scattered bass are the song’s sustained musical qualities and echo submerges Christine’s voice. It has a haunting effect.

Spartan musical qualities continue dominating during the track “Still My Baby”. It’s a quiet outcry for a loved one to be spared an increasingly inevitable fate. Furthermore, it’s a late testament to Christine’s talent for conveying vast emotions with few words. The arrangement is subtle, far from overwrought, and adds muted color to the piece. A whispered count-in ushers “You Belong”, the finale, into being. Its lyrics are comparatively simple to the earlier tracks, but it is no less impactful and shares similar sentiments to the last 2-3 songs. It’s another plea for a loved one to pull themselves back from a cliff and the acoustic slant of the song suits its mood. Bees in a Bottle’s The Sun Left and Took the Moon With It is a moving song cycle that rates as one of 2023’s best releases. 

Mindy McCall



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