In their five years as Sunflower Bean, Julia Cumming (bass), Nick Kivlen (guitars), and Jacob Faber (drums) have earned every accolade and dollar. They’ve been recognized as New York City’s hardest working band, released a rocking debut EP in the rocking Show Me Your Seven Seconds, and reinvigorated the classic rock of The Velvet Underground, Blondie, and Talking Heads on their outstanding first LP, Human Ceremony. Earlier this year, they took classic rock to unearthly heights on the stupendous Twentytwo in Blue.
While the band’s first two outputs were terrific, their rawness showcased a band still charting its path. On Twentytwo in Blue, the coarse edges are smoothed out, the instrumentation is tighter, and Cumming’s vocals are fuller and more confident. The dazzling “Only A Moment”, the Buffalo Springfield-esque “Sinking Sands”, the dazzling “Memoria”, and the Fleetwood Mac-like rocker “I Was A Fool” demonstrate the quartet’s maturation.
Where the band truly excel, however, is on the songs that present the rage growing within today’s younger generation. Cumming expresses her frustration with political and social instability on the rollicking opener, “Burn It”. The Breeders-meets-The New Pornographers’ tune, “Puppet Strings”, reveals Kivlen’s own disenfranchisement. As he succinctly states, “I used to have dreams, but I threw them away”.
The trio brilliantly capture the thoughts of young people living in a chaotic modern world on the roaring “Crisis Fest” and exuberant “Human For”. From politics to religion to student debt, the song reflects the growing tidal wave of people wanting change immediately. As Cumming emphatically sings on the former, “We brought you into this place. You know we can take you out”. The album’s pinnacle, “Twentytwo” is intimate and personal, as Cummings describes the shadows that linger long in our thoughts.
And linger has Twentytwo in Blue for months. It is not simply a statement from a young band on the rise. It is also one of the year’s landmark albums.
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