Sea of Bees’ “Building a Boat to the Sun” Creating a Real Buzz

10 Nov

Julie Ann Baenziger — otherwise know as Julie Ann Bee — is the lead singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind the indie band, Sea of Bees. The Sacramento area four-piece offers slightly quirky, very real (i.e. not over-produced or auto-tuned) music that ranges from folk-rock and Americana to more traditional pop and rock. The group’s latest album is Build a Boat to the Sun.

Julie Ann is clearly the queen bee of the hive. She plays guitar, bass, synthesizer and other keyboards, and recently picked up the drums. On Build a Boat to the Sun, she also gets help from Amber Padgett, John Bee and Geoffrey CK.

Sea of Bees can be an acquired taste. At times, the band’s music sounds somewhat do-it-yourself (DIY), perhaps because Julie Ann is indeed doing so much of it herself. Her lead vocals can be a bit squeezed at times — and in the case of the first track on this album, the la la la’s come off sweet, like bees to honey.

But the songwriting is typically sharp and the melodies are catchy and quickly grow on you.

On Build a Boat to the Sun, track 3 “Old Bridge” offers a nice example of the band’s excellent Americana. Julie Ann’s harmonized vocals are wistful, and the song has a comforting rhythm like a slowly rolling freight train. Julie Ann’s piano and strummed guitar add just the right finishing touches.

“Don’t Follow Me” is a spare, honest song, set over folky strummed guitar. The lyrics provide an intimate glimpse into Julie Ann’s world outlook. “Don’t follow me, I am lost,” she sings, “trying to find my way home like everyone else.”

The most radio-friendly tune on the album is track 6, “Little Sea.” It’s really nice, melodic indie pop — almost Beatles-like in its song construction and harmonized vocals. Brass in the lead break is a perfect fit for the throwback style.

Again, it’s worth noting Julie Ann’s lyrics. She pens, “It’s endless where I go/I get high or I get low/Oh, I fight so hard to stay right/The comfort of the sea is like a blanket over me/Eyes of friendly giants by my side.” Her songwriting is consistently excellent.

The album closes with “Monk.” This is a bit on the sad side, with deeper synth chords creating sorrowful underpinnings for a song about life’s shortcomings. Understated brass is used in the lead break here as well.

While Build a Boat to the Sun ends on a down note after its upbeat beginning, it doesn’t feel pessimistic. Rather, it seems Julie Ann is coming to grips with life’s ups and downs. And one thing for sure, she has many more great songs to write and sing for us.

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