Listening to Songs for the Ravens by Sea of Bees makes me feel like I’m part of something special. Maybe it’s that the music sounds quite large and experimental, especially when compared to other indie folk acts. It could be the way the wide array of instruments on this album fit together seamlessly. Perhaps it is the way singer/songwriter Julie Baenziger’s unique voice sits in the center of your brain, and after a while seems to become part of your own inner monologue. Or most likely, it is all these things combined that makes Songs for the Ravens a truly unexpected and wonderful gem
Songs for the Ravens has more than your typical indie folk record. Unlike other female folk singers, Baenziger plays most of the instruments on the album, some of which she had never played before. The overdub-heavy nature of this music gives it a large, deep sound that both satisfying and impressive. Jules (as her friends call her) has a voice that’s unlike anything I have heard before: it’s high (and not in an outrageous Joanna Newsom way), but completely under control; it’s also thin, but full enough to stand out among the many layers of instruments.
One of the highlights of the album is the poppy electronic tune “Willis.” The song features fast-paced and clicky electronic drums (courtesy Wes Steed of Hearts and Horses) reminiscent of The Postal Service. The rest is a wonderfully crafted song that features beautiful vocal harmonies, floating synthesizers, and painful lyrics about feeling hurt and used (“I trust another boy, he held me out to dry/and used me for a good time, and made me lose my mind”). Although the lyrics are sad, the music feels optimistic in a way that makes you hope everything works out for the singer.
And I do hope everything works out for Julie Baenziger; she deserves all the praise she receives. This album displays her intuition when it comes to playing many different instruments, her talent as a vocalist, and her amazing abilities as a songwriter. A lot of artists release a few albums before they find their sound, but it seems like Sea of Bees nailed it on the first try.