When you first hear the name Sea of Bees, it doesn’t exactly conjure up pleasant images. You think of swatting newspapers on hot days, the end of My Girl, and how a €œ'Sea of Bees'€ may be the most unattractive collective noun ever proposed. But leave your fears in another bay and dive deep into this one, because Sea of Bees embodies the exact opposite of its connotations. A more befitting title would be Sea of Jam or Sea of Nice Dreamy Loveliness. The creative tide directing this particular sea is Californian multi-instrumentalist, Julie Baenziger or '€œJulie Ann Bee'€. She was signed to Heavenly Recordings in September, so the title track '€˜The Woods'€™ is somewhat of a re-release, having originally appeared on her first EP Bee Eee Pee.

'The Woods'€™ is a stripped down guitar-and-vocals track; it goes back to basics, and in doing so it harbours a kind of sincerity that can only come through simplicity. The repetitive plucking and strumming of about four notes in total provides the rhythmic foundation, whilst the layered vocals build and roll melodically over one another. It is exactly this minimalistic arrangement, though, that makes Sea of Bees so naturally charming. “Natural” seems to be an overall key feature here, too. From the sea to the woods, there is a raw and textured sound which cannot fail to conjure up images of rustic landscapes or battered shorelines. Julie sings with an honest fragility, and with the addition of echoing acoustics in the production, it feels almost haunting. That being said, as rich as the sound may be, 'The Woods'€™ does lack in dynamics. The melodies climb and dip beautifully, but without any strong direction. The song is unequivocally “nice”, but we will have to wait and see whether there is much more to Sea of Bees than just a pretty sound.

'€˜Lightfriend'€™ is the second and final track on the EP. Twinkling like a baby mobile or a music box, this track is a 53 second lullaby. You can feel thousands of pairs of eyes droop heavily as Julie sings with a childish sentimentality: "Sweetheart, you are such a light to me€." However, rather than winding down to silence as a music box does, '€˜Lightfriend'™ brings The Woods EP to a freeze like a clock that suddenly stops ticking. The ending is quite literally short but sweet.

Sea of Bees is seen as part of the '€œfreak-folk'€ collective, which is associated with artists such as Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens (who are kind of the God parents of this particular sub-genre). Unfortunately, with The Woods EP, we seem to get straight up folk without much essence of the freak. This may be due to the length of the release as the '€œadditional material'€ is admittedly a downside. We get just one track supported by a kind of half-song which clocks up only four and a half minutes of music. It's like having a starter and then being told to wait an indefinite amount of time for the main meal.

Sea of Bees is set to play her second string of UK shows in early 2011, so if this EP isn't enough to sustain you until then, you can always feast upon her previous recordings Bee Eee Pee and Songs For Ravens which were released earlier this year. Hopefully the anticipation will pay off.