There are two ways to experience and appreciate the quirkily but darkly titled The Sun Left and Took the Moon with It, the bold and brilliant third album by Portland, OR based husband and wife indie rock duo of Christine and Chad McAllister, colorfully dba Bees in a Bottle.
First, it’s the most daringly ambitious expression of a band that’s been rooted in a dark, introspective singer/songwriter tradition and haunting atmospheres since inviting us into a Quiet Room on their 2013 debut. Or, considering that every song – from the brooding, rumbling opener “Wet Widow” and the gloomily ambient lead single “You Alone” to the wistful and reflective minimalist Joni-Mitchell-flavored “Gardener” – is about the hard, ugly and sorrow and regret filled aftermath of death and suicide, we can truly call it just about the most depressing (though cathartic) album ever conceived and recorded.
Because it’s so raw, honest and authentic to the McAllisters, and Christine’s voice tugs at the heart both via ethereal hypnosis (as on “You Alone” and “No Clean Slate”) and cathartic rock edged rage (“Hang Fire”), the fairest way to understand the prodigious 10 track collection (one track a reprise of the acoustic gem “No Clean Slate” that’s curiously longer than the original) is that it was a necessary soul cleanse for them – and by extension, maybe some of us – in the wake of several personal tragedies.
After losing two friends they lived with in the early 2010’s – one to suicide, the other to a sudden medical emergency – the two took stock of the rippling effect of traumatic loss. Christine in particularly went down the rabbit hole of the mystique of death being a cool aspect of rock and roll fame – and emerged with some searing, de-mystifying commentary about being the partner and ex-partner of a self-destructive, addictive and suicidal personalities.
This leads to heavy duty narratives connected to all sorts of rock and folk energies that must be listened to numerous times to fully absorb the inner emotions she channels. Bees in a Bottle saves their most impactful tunes for lasts, with the haunting “Still My Baby” reflecting a mother’s enduring love from in utero to grave and “You Belong” helping take us back to finding hope and normality even in the face of life’s harshest tragedies.