Sunflower Bean (photo by Rebekah Campbell, PR)
Fat Possum Records
Every so often, a new band comes around with a musical know-how that is well beyond its years. Sunflower Bean is one of those bands.
Sunflower Bean's three members are only 20 years old, but they create music that is influenced by the artists from decades past, playing with the mature confidence of a veteran band. Forming about two and a half years ago, the Brooklyn trio quickly made a name for themselves as one of the busiest groups in the borough’s vibrant music scene. Constant gigging in New York City’s bars and clubs also afforded singer and guitarist Nick Kivlen, drummer Jacob Faber, and singer and bassist Julia Cumming the opportunity to hone the songs that appear on Sunflower Bean's debut album, Human Ceremony.
Their sound is informed and inspired by a wide variety of vintage music styles and genres: psychedelic prog, metal, ‘80s indie rock, and ‘90s dream pop. They successfully blend those influences into something that it totally their own.
The title of the album comes from the point of view of an extraterrestrial society looking upon Earth and observing humans going about their everyday lives; it’s this fantastic mindset that fuels Human Ceremony. Everything about the album is bright and brash, yet also moody and dark. The songs are filtered through a pop kaleidoscope that’s aimed at the sun, creating stunning, psychedelic melodies that are shimmering and menacing.
Kivlen’s jangling guitars and buzzing distortion is juxtaposed with thunderous power chords that would make Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi proud. Cumming’s otherworldly vocals, which share the spotlight with Kivlen’s, float through the songs. The lyrics possess a dreamy, stream of consciousness quality (“What did you do today? I stayed at home today. I was home and then I wasn’t.”) The pulse though it all is Faber’s driving rhythms, keeping everything vibrant and alive. Together, these elements enhance the album’s rich atmospherics.
Human Ceremony is a psych-pop breath of fresh air coming from a wonderfully creative young band. It's an early candidate for the year’s best debut album.