Album Review: Sunflower Bean - Twentytwo In Blue Brooklyn rockers replace teenage haze with a progression in theme and a directness in production - paying homage to the classic rock greats along the way.
Posted: 23 March 2018 Words: Michelle Kim
Brooklyn rockers replace teenage haze with a fresh direction in sound - paying homage to the classic rock greats along the way.
Julia Cumming, Jacob Faber and Nick Kivlen aka Sunflower Bean- will all be 22 years old on the 23rd March - the general release date for the bands sophomore record Twentytwo In Blue out via Lucky Number today. The album comes almost two years and two months after the release of their critically acclaimed 2016 debut album Human Ceremony. We're sensing a theme here, so now that's covered, let's see what it looks like to be, twenty two in 2018.
Two years isn't a long time in between records when the artist has been constantly touring, yet this band have made major leaps musically in terms of development from their debut HC. Twentytwo in Blue was made in the year between December 2016 and December 2017 and unlike Human Ceremony which featured a compilation of tracks the band wrote in their teens from their high-school days, is current and reflects right now.
A shift musically has also been underpinned by a shift of intellectual focus with the national upheaval and politically volatile climate of the US being cited as an influence on the record. The Adam Ant stomp of 'Crisis Fest' channelling power-rock's fiercest vocalist, Pat Benetar, as Cumming rasps "A thousand men in uniform, kick down the doors of my concern." Cumming explains, the track as having been written for the audiences they connected with during this uncertain time, and is less about politics - more about the potential power of young adulthood and capturing anxieties about the future.
Progressive themes are matched by a new directness in the production. Gone is the reverb-laden, hazy psych-rock of Human Ceremony and its place there are crisp trebly guitars, warm seventies drum snaps and bounce-along basslines. Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Human Cermony-producer Matt Molnar of Friends, co-produced the record which has the group stay true to their guitar band roots while using a new palette of crisp classic rock era tones.
There are certain tracks that are more than a homage to the 1970s/1980's classic rock era. Album opener 'Burn it', sounds like Chrissie Hynde fronting The Eagles and has a bassline which could have been lifted directly from Talk Talk's 'It's My Life'. The Fleetwood Mac homage of 'I Was a Fool' has an outro vocal arrangement that is far too similar to Stevie Nicks' outro vocal in 'Dreams,' hopefully, a tongue-in-cheek salute rather than an outright rip.
Cumming's vocals shine on Twentytwo In Blue, as she channels the smooth sonant, storyteller prowess of Carol King and Linda Ronstadt throughout the album, to coo and lull the listener along. 'Only A Moment' and 'Any Way You Like' take a timeout with their dreamy, slow-burn waltz groove, and serious Beach House vibes heard in the layered decays and guitar pickings.
As the record descends into full 1950s rock'n'roll territory toward the end, what is most apparent is the band's undeniable chemistry. By the power of three, it is still at full throttle and utterly awe-inspiring to think the group members are still just 22 years old. Twentytwo In Blue is an extremely accomplished record, even in it's most throwback moments.
Tour dates (UK in BOLD):
26/1 - Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits
31/1 - Chicago, IL @ Metro ^
01/2 - Nashville, TN @ The Basement East ^
03/2 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk ^
05/2 - San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger ^
06/2 - Dallas, TX @ Granada ^
07/2 - Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall (Inside Downstairs) ^
09/2 - New Orleans, LA @ Republic New Orleans ^
10/2 - Athens, GA @ 40 Watt ^
11/2 - Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre ^
13/2 - Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel ^
14/2 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club ^
22/2 - London, UK @ The Jazz Cafe
01/3 - Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
02/3 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
24/3 - Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms26/3 - Norwich, UK @ Open Norwich27/3 - Birmingham, UK @ Hare and Hounds28/3 - Newcastle upon Tyne, UK @ Riverside29/3 - Leeds, UK @ Wardrobe 30/3 - Manchester, UK @ Gorilla31/3 - Liverpool, UK @ The Magnet01/4 - Glasgow, UK @ Stereo03/4 - Bristol, UK @ Thekla05/4 - Brighton, UK @ Concorde 206/4 - London, UK @ Koko
09/4 - Paris, FR @ Point Ephemere
10/4 - Antwerp, Belgium @ TRIX VZW
11/4 - Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
12/4 - Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow
13/4 - Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen
14/4 - Berlin, Germany @ Rosis
15/4 - Vienna, Austria @ Chelsea Club
17/4 - Lausanne, Switzerland @ Le Romandie
18/4 - Zurich, Switzerland @ Bogen F
19/4 - Cologne, Germany @ Blue Shell
20/5 - Gulf Shores, AL @ The Hangout Music Festival
^ - w/ Sleigh Bells