Despite the syrupy warmth of her sound and persona, there’s a certain elusiveness to Sea Of Bees’ music. The woman born Julie Baezinger has a hallucinogenic voice, the first time she sings on Gnomes, the opener of her debut record Songs For The Ravens, it’s a wordless, hungry, skyward swoon of battered feelings. A peculiarly crooked first impression, but soon enough the song floats back down to earth under the weight of a full-bodied acoustic guitar. But that curious strain of psychedelic wooziness carries throughout, the music blurs the lines between dreamy imagination and the coldness of un-abstract emotionality.
The album feels like a journey in the best possible way; slowly seeping under your skin, revealing new textures and new sonic touches as the running time gets deeper. The lethargic wash of psychedelic folk dissolves into a sparked-up concoction of intangible electro-pop, before going heavier and darker towards the end. Throughout there’s never a specific image of the character Baezinger is crafting. Like most solo-pop projects, Sea Of Bees deals primarily with the colors of heartbreak, but always with a different tone or angle.
Towards the beginning she’s looking inward, deep under the spell of unrequited adoration – the chorus of the grassy Wizbot repeats “isn’t in something in your eyes /isn’t it something in your smile /isn’t it something I can change a point of view?” Elsewhere she’s colder and more in control, the album’s best song, the carbonated synth-romp Willis, has her telling the titular subject that his claims of infatuation “don’t matter anymore”. The shaky country-folk of Sidepain comes to a head with “Is it good for you that I /think of you when I cry” in a wounded explosion of corrupted adoration, as far from blaming yourself as you could imagine.
There’s no sign of Songs For The Ravens being about a particular person or experience, rather the consolidation of a lifetime’s worth of struggling relationships. In that sense it makes it a very human album, never getting too caught up in the specifics of a certain event. Her ruminations are always artistic, never veering the album into personal therapeutics. She leaves enough under the table that by the end of the listen you’re captivated by the existence of this woman. Her stories sound precariously unfinished, sometimes one-sided and almost always relatable.
Ultimately the album succeeds through Baezinger’s singing and storytelling. The brushed guitar strums and blipped, shifting electronics all falls in mid-level indie – but her disembodied voice and lyrical knack reflect something much different. In the end the record greatly exceeds its perceived strengths, building and out-doing itself over its 40 minutes. It ultimately ties back to project’s humanist instinct, which is an excellent thing to found a career on.