Sea of Bees - Songs For Ravens

Rhian Daly 07/02/2011

Rating: 4.5/5

As 2010 surrendered to Joanna Newsom's best work to date on Have One On Me, so this calendar year should give itself up to the unique talents of California's Julie Ann Baezinger, known in the music world as Sea of Bees, and her debut full length LP Songs For Ravens. With the album already out in her home country (it was released last summer), she's got her sights set on this side of the Atlantic now, signing with much-respected label Heavenly and boy, are we glad.

From the off, Songs For Ravens promises to be an exciting and eye-opening journey through Jules' catalogue of influences and memories, twisting and winding through personal tales, sparse atmospherics and wails reminiscent of a softer Kate Bush. The latter is prominent on album opener 'Gnomes', a perfect greeting that sets the record's trajectory in motion.

'Wizbot''s questioning is characteristic of the whole album - lullaby gentle, with occasional moments of heartbreak and dewy-eyed sadness. The simple, bare necessities approach of 'Won't Be Long' sounds as if designed for a half-lit scene in a film; endless landscapes flashing past train windows, bright lights of the city away in the distance. Wistful and reassuring, it's unmistakably gorgeous, packing more power in it's empty spaces than those filled with sounds. A little different from what you might expect of the “freak folk” that Jules feels at one with, it's the understated highlight of the album.

That's not to say when she does what you've envisioned it's in any way a disappointment, far from it. Penultimate track 'Sidepain' bursts with life, rattling through Nashville's local scene and coming out the other side filled with Americana joy. 'Marmalade' isn't quite as breakneck happy, but its overcast mood is equally as satisfying.

Album closer 'Blind' wraps things up with an emotional finish, all regrets and big string accompaniments. It's a fitting end to the journey made over the previous 10 songs, embodying the rest of the record's heart on sleeve storytelling and waving goodbye to it with a graceful bow before fading into the shadows. If 2011 doesn't belong to Sea of Bees, something will have gone very wrong indeed.