Sacramento-based Julie Baenzinger’s project Sea of Bees is undoubtedly an acquired taste. Her quirky, high-pitched voice, subdued tempos, and sometimes shoddy, lo-fi instrumentals either tug at your heartstrings or lull you to sleep. You either love her, or, well, you don’t. On the Gnomes EP, we find Baenzinger the same as always, understated yet haunting, and the lead track of 2010’s Song for the Ravens revisited, remixed, and complemented by two ambitious covers.
“Gnomes” is just as catchy as it was the first time around, her soaring vocals and bouncy guitar strumming adding together for a solid pop song. As for the covers, just like her previous releases, the depth revealed on repeat listens keeps them, and Gnomes, from being monotonous or dismissed. The pieced-together vocal harmonies and swirling atmospheric ambience on the Blue Oyster Cult cover add an artsy touch to the song usually associated with Will Ferrell and cowbells. A down-tempo, emotional tune isn’t too far out of Baenzinger’s comfort zone to cover (considering that is an accurate description of a lot of her own music), but her rendition of U2’s “With or Without You”, shedding the comfort blanket of lush layers, adds a dimension of raw emotion previously unseen in her other work.
Saving the best for last (although coming in as track two), UK experimental folk group Tunng’s remix of “Gnomes” is the undeniable highlight of Gnomes. Injecting a shot of life into Baenzinger’s often lethargic melodies, the warped vocal track and incorporation of electronics result in a gem that’s not only danceable but addictive. On the whole, the Gnomes EP is a diverse collection of tunes that offers a little something for everybody, and with any luck and the power of two solid covers and a funky remix, it can swoon some dissenters.
Essential Track: “Gnomes (Tunng Remix)”