Sunflower Bean - Twentytwo in Blue - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sunflower Bean - Twentytwo in Blue

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-03-23
Sunflower Bean - Twentytwo in Blue
Sunflower Bean - Twentytwo in Blue

What a stark difference a couple of years have made for Sunflower Bean. The New York trio no longer packs the same youthful verve as the teens who put out Human Ceremony in 2016. Instead, with Twentytwo in Blue, the band is testing the waters of maturity. As Taylor Swift once pointed out, 22 is a pivotal point in anyone’s life, and this record is slated for release when each member of the band shares the crucial age. As it stands, Sunflower Bean’s sophomore effort displays an invigorated group of young adults with just enough clarity to realize just how little they actually know.

From the get-go, the record is an affectionate pastiche, littered with references to vastly different eras of rock history. These disciples of new wave appear to also have an affinity for the heyday of Fleetwood Mac, while never shying away from their shoegaze roots (particularly on tracks like “I Was a Fool”). The not-quite title track, “Twentytwo,” boasts a swirling dreamscape that is entirely its own. Even as the songs weave in and out of easily definable genre labels, they remain bound by inextricable connective tissue. Co-produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait and Human Ceremony producer Matt Molnar of Friends, the crisp, humanist touch of the record serves as the glue holding it all together, with the whole album maintaining a smooth, silky gleam.

In these divisive times, it’s difficult not to read political outrage into even the most ambiguous artistic expressions, but Sunflower Bean isn’t making any bones about the role these trying times play in their songwriting process. The hard-hitting punk rocker “Crisis Fest” serves as the crux of the cultural commentary, laying on thick layers of the absurdity at hand. “2017—we know / Reality’s one big sick show / Every day’s a crisis fest,” belts out frontwoman Julia Cumming over speedy, crunchy melodies. Still, even in the midst of all-encompassing anxiety, the song finds a silver lining in the hope that people will soon join together for the betterment of humanity

Sunflower Bean shines on the upbeat numbers, but they truly come into their own in the heartfelt, delicate moments. Tracks such as “Memoria” and “Only a Moment” showcase the haunting ressonance of Julia Cumming’s emotional delivery. Her ethereal cry elevates the band above many of its peers, calling to mind Stevie Nicks or Chrissie Hynde. As the harsh intensity is peeled back, all that remains is the unyielding chemistry of the bandmates. Cumming, Nick Kivlen (lead guitar and vocals), and Jacob Faber (drums) tap into a harmonious groove that few acts are fortunate enough to discover together.

After rounding out the album with arena jams (“Human For”), psychedelia (“Any Way You Like”), and flowery blues anthems (“Sinking Sands”), Sunflower Bean ends their transcendent closing track, “Oh No, Bye Bye,” with the creaking of a door being opened, as if to symbolize the trio going out into the world to share their newfound wisdom. Teetering on the border of sunny and pensive, of bubbly pop and barroom twang, the album is a welcome improvement over the band’s already impressive debut. Twentytwo in Blue is such a clever, celestial record.

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