Translating into the German for “the colour of orange”, Sea of Bees‘ second release,Orangefarben, much like Joni Mitchell’s colour record Blue, is Sacramento-born and -based Julie Ann Baenziger’s reflection on the multifaceted nature of relationships. While the initial connotations of the bright hue that she references are of warmth, summer and happiness the multi-instrumentalist’s second release is in fact a distillation of break-up songs written for a former girlfriend after whom the record is also named. Conveyed through the soft folk of ‘More’ onto the bouncing guitar pop of ‘Girl’, sighing slide-guide of ‘Teeth’ and a tender cover of John Denver’s ‘Leaving [on a Jet Plane]‘ the songs see a continuation of her personal and innocent strain of folk music.
With her child-like vocals Baenziger shot to acclaim in 2010 with her debut Songs for the Ravens, leading to tours in support of John Grant, Calexico, Vetiver and the Smoke Faeries. And indeed it is the tender and fragile pull of her voice that is the most captivating characteristic of her intimate folk; comparisons to Joanna Newsom abound, although Julie Ann Bee (as she is often known) is a less fantastical lyricist than the Californian harpist, instead opting for emotionally unguarded expression of romantic confession, heartbreak and loss which are presented with the hesitant intensity of the quivering vocal that narrated her debut, qualities that are carried over, too, to this second helping.
There’s a sense of sparsity and minimalism to Orangefarben with the tracklisting made up of eleven songs all bearing one-word titlings – and juxtaposing ones at that: ‘Take’ and ‘Give’, ‘Gone’ and ‘Grew’. Yet sonically it draws from a musical palette that is anything but simple. Opener ‘Broke’ has a full band set up with ambient weird-folk elements warbling in the background, while the lyrics flit between simplistic cries of “Don’t let me down, I want more” to the more poetically expressive “You’re like a melody that swims right through my veins”.
Incorporating the thick textures of marimba, strings and pedal steel into the usual staple mix of guitar, drums and bass, and again recorded with the assistance of John Baccigaluppi at Hangar Studios, California, Orangefarben harbours a great deal of warmth and assurance in amongst its heartbreak.