Most people in The U.K. and the E.U. know this band as “The Bees” but, due to some legal action, the group release music as “A Band of Bees” in America. As far as albums that were home-recorded by two dudes in a garden shed go, “Sunshine Hit Me” is almost miraculous in its quality, in terms of songwriting and sonics.
The song that hooked me on A Band Of Bees is their undeniable smooth jam “Punchbag.” I honestly don’t remember how I found out about this band because, to this day, I rarely see write-ups on The Bees. “Punchbag” is one of those songs that as soon as you hear it, you want to listen to it again. My obsession with that song led me to purchase “Sunshine Hit Me” – I had no idea I would be purchasing an album that would be special to me for years to come.
The instrumentation on this record is all over the place. It’s truly a wonder how these two guys (Paul Butler and Aaron Fletcher) accomplished the creation of this wide-eyed album. Silky Rhodes keys, sweet harmonies, understated horn arrangements, inescapable drum and bass grooves, lackadaisical guitar lines, dreamy synths, seemingly endless layers of percussion and refrains that will be stuck in your head for many hours.
Ironically, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this now, I thought the track “Punchbag” featured Adam Levine on vocals (this was back when Maroon 5 still had some artistic integrity – seriously, just listen to the high harmony) but it turns out The Bees are just really gifted at mashing genres together and pushing their talents to impressive heights.
“Angryman” follows “Punchbag” – showcasing the band’s ability to write incredible songs that don’t take themselves too seriously while still making broad statements with relatable ideas, such as the “an angry man needs attention” lyric. “Binnel Bay” is when things start to get really weird and the kitchen sink of influences threatens to overflow, but The Bees keep their work light and short enough to keep it interesting.
“Sunshine” is when lift-off truly occurs. A hypnotizing synth starts the track and the dynamics slowly build from there, shifting dramatically at points and underlining The Bees clear jazz sensibilities. This is the point in the album when the listener may realize this is no ordinary band writing simple pop tunes, nor some group throwing together schlocky jams with no deeper thinking.
A Band of Bees do favor fun, however, as made evident by their sweet-hearted rendition of legendary Brazilian punks Os Mutantes’ “A Mihna Menina” – the cover offers the first fuzzed out guitar riff of the record and got the band some attention for its use in a car commercial. The Os Mutatntes cover somehow fits right at home in the center of the album, matching the group’s odd-flavored pop tendencies and interesting percussion uses.
The real treasure of this album is the three song suite at the end of the record – the pensive and powerful “Lying In The Snow” – into the wondrous and curious “Zia” – followed by the honest and bittersweet “Sky Holds The Sun.”
“Sunshine Hit Me” combines 60’s pop, psychedelic art-jazz, loosely definable reggae funk and even takes some clear influence of the punk do-it-yourself movement. Introspective, amorphous, clever, fun and mind-bending – The Bees created an album full of unique arrangements, catchy song structures and little nuggets of glorious production work that you will continue to discover on repeated listens. If you are looking for a laid-back yet thought-provoking psychedelic pop album, look no further. “Sunshine Hit Me” by A Band of Bees (a.k.a. The Bees) is a timeless and underrated classic indie album.
Best songs – “Punchbag” – “Angryman” – “Lying In The Snow” – “Sky Holds The Sun”
Genres – psychedelic pop, jazz, rock, reggae, funk
Influences – Beach Boys, Donovan, Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips
Article written by Adam Fitzgerald.