Review: Sunflower Bean — Twentytwo in Blue

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 at 4:40 PM
Review: Sunflower Bean — Twentytwo in Blue by Livia Homerski

★★★☆☆

Sunflower Bean faces issues of being derivative and not particularly moving on their latest release “Twentytwo in Blue,” but their skills as musicians saves them some face. The classic-rock inspired indie outfit from Brooklyn, New York released their mild and amiable sophomore album on March 23.

“I Was a Fool” is the stoned, couch potato cousin to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” The song bares resemblance to the iconic 1977 hit right from the opening drum crashes, similar guitar tones and  the spiraling falsetto “oh oh oh’s.” Not to mention, the harmonizing “oh’s” suspiciously share the same notes as the background vocals singing “lonely” on the iconic Fleetwood Mac track. These blatant inspirations truly rub me the wrong way as Sunflower Bean’s lift carries a fraction of the passion and story that “Dreams” does, making the entire song come off as uninspired and lazy.

The album earns its name from “Twentytwo,” a ballad with a feminist statement about independence and expectations placed on young women. Lead singer Julia Cumming has a vocal tone similar to Nancy Wilson, but lacks the finesse and flair that Wilson had (and still does.) Interestingly enough, “Twentytwo” is in the same key as “Dreamboat Annie,” so the callback to the ‘70’s is ringing off the hook.

One of the standout tracks of the album, “Memoria,” begins strong instrumentally with two contrasting guitar riffs while  the wholesomely full bass and drums coming in a slight half-beat early. The bass in the refrain sways back and forth before Cummings asserts in the chorus “the past is the past for a reason” to say that it’s well past time to move on to better things.

“Any Way You Like” opens with deep, grungey fingerpicking by Nick Kivlen before his lengthy, echoing vocals lay over top the tambourine and guitar like a fog. The bass, which was lingering quietly behind the other instruments, now plays alongside the guitar riff before expanding into a 50’s pop ballad during the chorus. Cumming joins him for the rest of the song, but her vocals lack the same intense reverb that Kivlen’s have, which juxtaposes the two narratives of the song.

“Sinking Sands” has one of the brightest choruses of the album, but the garagey effect on Cummings vocals pushes them to back and muffles her enunciation. The lyrics have to compete with a piano, a downward grooving bass riff and a falsetto two part harmony, so it’s hard to hear what exactly Cummings is singing. This carries a bit of irony due to the song being about beliefs in the unknown and the power of misinformation.

The album is far from unlistenable, but it will not be something that I will likely be listening to again. Don’t get me wrong, “Twentytwo in Blue” is warm, inviting and has the ability to groove, rock and roll. However, there are few distinctions that sets Sunflower Bean apart from a dozen of other classic-rock-indie groups. Although it sounds harsh, if you’re going to rehash the greats, you either have to outperform the original or prepare yourself to face the music of creating something derivative.

Sunflower Bean is still young, so they are likely to appeal to younger generations who have some classic rock nostalgia, but would rather stray from the mainstream. The talent is definitely there for the trio, but hopefully their next release will promise something more original.

Stream below: 

Livia Homerski can be reached at musics.spectator@gmail.com.

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