Sea of Bees – OrangefarbenPosted by Laura Lancaster
Ah, the breakup album. From Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks to Adele’s 21, the best bridge the gap between artist and listener by creating a degree of intimacy through unbridled honesty. Orangefarben is the name Julie Ann Baenziger, aka Sea of Bees, gave to her former girlfriend, before setting out to write a collection of songs about their relationship. The result is a story about the wonder and sadness of love told with exquisite truth and simplicity.
Sea of Bees released her sweet as honey sound with last year’s Songs for the Ravens, an album which gave her enough recognition and confidence to produce something bolder with Orangefarben. Multi-instrumentalist Baenziger is repeatedly compared to harp queen Joanna Newsom; both Californians share a sound blended in folk and pop with quirky female vocals. Unlike Newsom, Sea of Bees holds a more relaxed sound. Lyrically and structurally, there is a minimalist quality to her eleven one-word titled songs which includes a bittersweet cover of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. In each song, Baenziger’s vocals take center stage. She is at once childlike and knowing, her voice dripping with earnest feeling.
Songs such as “Grew” showcase her voice the most. All other instrumentation is stripped away, leaving us alone with her haunting timbre. Although she falters at times, Baenziger’s imperfections and vulnerability add to her charm. “Broke” is one of the most captivating songs on Orangefarben. Baenziger makes interesting and unpredictable choices in her melodies which free her from the mainstream trap a lot of other female singer/songwriters. She laments her situation, repeating “I’ll be fine”, as if trying to convince herself. In “Teeth” she takes a fanciful route, comparable to the dream pop of Beach House. In “More” she echoes “I want more” with unguarded desire. Her voice slowly rises in a passionate crescendo until she is no longer just singing, she is aching and pleading.
There are many sentimental moments in Orangefarben that are believable because you know Baenziger means every word she sings. In “Give” she sings “I will bend not break/I will give not take” and in “Gone” admits “I’ve tried so hard not to break your heart.” Although namely an album filled with post-breakup insight, it is also about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. “Take” is a poignant song in which she realizes, “Just be the way you want to feel/You can make your world what you want it to be.”
Sea of Bees has most certainly proven herself since her debut last year. Although the pace ebbs too much at times she holds a consistency that makes Orangefarben a beautiful work in itself, rather than a collection of varying songs.