First Listen

First Listen: Sea Of Bees, 'Orangefarben'

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Julie Ann Bee writes and records as Sea of Bees. Her new record, Orangefarben, comes out May 1.

hide captionJulie Ann Bee writes and records as Sea of Bees. Her new record, Orangefarben, comes out May 1.

Gabriella Clavel

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It's hard to imagine packing more heartache into a single record than Julie Ann Bee does on Orangefarben. The album, her second full-length under the name Sea of Bees, is a collection of intimate, sometimes gut-wrenching love letters documenting the dissolution of a passionate but doomed relationship. This is Bee's heart laid bare: The songs are raw, personal and burning with love, sex, longing and grief.

"I don't know what people [will] think about it, because it's so direct," Bee says. "But every time I tried something different, this would come out of my heart. It kept coming up, the melodies and words."

What came up on Orangefarben was an emotional release for Bee following a period of profound change in her life. Not long after releasing her widely praised 2009 album Songs for the Ravens, the 25-year-old singer from Sacramento came out to her family and friends and began dating her first girlfriend. Though Bee calls it her "first true love," the pressures of an exhaustive Sea of Bees tour and a load of personal baggage neither she nor her girlfriend could control ultimately ended the relationship.

"I was just thinking of how lovely it was when I first met her," Bee says from a cafe in Glasgow, where she's currently on tour. "With this album, it was all of our experiences and good memories. I put them down in these songs. It was definitely hard. But [recording them] made me come to life. It filled my heart."

It's easy for artists to fall back on tired formulas when treading over familiar territory. But there's a profoundly affecting honesty on Orangefarben that's impossible to dismiss. Even the title has emotional heft; it was Bee's nickname for her girlfriend. Stylistically, the record is similar to Ravens, with simple pop structures layered over mysterious sonic textures and great care taken with the melodies. But Bee's distinctive and evocative voice remains the star attraction, soaring over each track with restless yearning. And, while much of Orangefarben is mournful, the album is full of beauty and hope for the future.

"I think we're all in the process of healing from things in the past," Bee says. "I feel like a new person now. I feel like I'm growing up as a person. I feel happiness. It's really just the beginning of things."

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