Sunflower Bean Reveal Potential on Debut LP ‘Human Ceremony’ (ALBUM REVIEW)


sunflowerbean2Sunflower Bean has had a quick ascent from a DIY New York buzz band, to reaching some of the highest echelons of music acknowledgement, garnering mentions in some prestigious publications without having released a record.  While their precociousness is admirable (all three members are under 21), they may have lost a piece of the raw, unfiltered brashness that characterized their live shows while recording of their debut album, Human Ceremony.

It isn’t that Human Ceremony is an unlistenable album- it just has trouble registering a pulse at times.  Previous Sunflower Bean tracks resemble an angry and amphetamined Velvet Underground.  Lead singer Julia Cumming’s past vocals, brilliantly resemble a rebirthed Kathleen Hanna.  However, none of these comparisons apply to Human Cermemony, which assumes a much more spacey, passive and, mollified sound.

While glimmers of wantonness briefly rear their head in songs like “Creation Myth”, “2013” and “This Kinda Feeling,”  any excitement is quickly tampered down with down-tempo beats and soft, unobtrusive vocals.  Sunflower Bean has proven they can galvanize youthful angst and destructive tendencies in previous songs like “Tame Impala” and “Rock & Roll Heathen”, but quizzically choose to play coy in Human Ceremony.

Much of the album exudes a dusky shoegaze vibe that is more analogous to fellow New Yorker’s DIIV and Baltimore’s Beach House, than the grungy psych-punk horse that Sunflower Bean rode in on.  While tracks like “Easier Said” and “Creation Myth” are enjoyable shoegaze tracks, others fall woefully short like “I Want You To Give Me Enough Time” and “Oh, I Just Don’t Know”.  The epoch of the album can be found in the catchy single “Wall Watcher”, yet even this track doesn’t have much staying power.

While I am not arguing that Sunflower Bean does not deserve the hype and recognition that they have been shown initially – because they do.  You can’t help but feel the tepidness of the band’s approach to their first album, where many of their lovable idiosyncrasies have been reined in and manicured.  While Human Ceremony would be a crowning debut for a majority of bands out there – Sunflower Bean has already given us a glimpse into their true potential, and we demand more.

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