The Lowdown: At the tender age of 22, the members of New York-based trio Sunflower Bean have musically matured in a preternatural fashion, moving leaps and bounds beyond the rough-and-ready attack of their 2016 debut album. In a mere two years, they’ve absorbed the history of glam rock and paid enough attention to the world at large to become fully jaded adults. As a result, the 11 songs on Twentytwo in Blue stomp and seethe, while aching for humanity’s future.
The Good: With the help of co-producers Jacob Portrait (bassist for Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and Matthew Molnar (ex-member of Friends), Sunflower Bean have dropped the tightly packed core of their wiggly rock into a pool of warm water, letting it unroll and swell into something softer and cushier. And they’ve wisely set the emphasis on the enrapturing curl of Julia Cumming’s vocals. Even as she snubs organized religion (“Human For”) and breaks free from a poisonous relationship (“Puppet Strings”), it goes down like a syrupy, potent elixir.
The Bad: The band’s youth comes across most strongly in their decidedly less-than-nuanced lyrics. Cummings and fellow vocalist Nick Kivlen write songs with a punk-like bluntness that rubs roughly against the otherwise frictionless music. They drive their points home firmly, as in the embittered “Crisis Fest” (“Reality’s one big sick show/ Every day’s a crisis fest … there’s a coup in our country/ It’s happening now”), but often get stuck on rusty turns of phrase (“Who holds the puppet strings to my heart?”) that feel like yearbook quotes.
The Verdict: Sunflower Bean have all the ingredients at hand to achieve something truly spectacular. And they’re right on the precipice. Considering how quickly young bands are expected to ripen to survive in our accelerated age, this trio has done a remarkable job evolving from the uneasy steps of their first self-released tracks to this more steady and fleshed-out album. At the moment, it feels more like a sneaky treat than something to provide more substantive fuel. But there are plenty of occasions were that quick-hit sugar rush is all you need.
Essential Tracks: “Burn It”, “Crisis Fest”, and “Sinking Sands”