Arriving with a fully formed aesthetic, Sunflower Bean were seemingly destined to release an album as exquisite as Twentytwo In Blue. The band’s well of influence runs deep with everything from Fleetwood Mac to The Sweet informing their sound but the exuberance and uncertainty of youth refuses to allow the songs to become in exercise in celebrating the past. Playing as a three-piece, Twentytwo In Blue sounds like it was recorded live off the floor which makes it instantly refreshing in an era where even the most indie of indie bands seem to trip themselves up with the bells and whistles of Pro Tools. Most importantly, the band has something to say and the songs are unforgettable.
Opener “Burn It” sounds like an ode to their ever-changing hometown of New York City with a understated swagger that backs up Julia Cumming’s promise to burn it to the ground. Not since Interpol revitalized post-punk in the early 2000s has NYC sounded this damn cool. “Crisis Fest” gets even feistier; an anthem for tomorrow’s leaders who already understand where apathy has gotten us in America. And it makes you bounce in your shoes; as does the T. Rex stomp of “Puppet Strings” and the drunk-on-feedback “Human For”.
The band’s maturity and confidence comes to the forefront on slow-burning songs like “I Was A Fool” and the dream-pop gem “Any Way You Like” but even they do not approach the penetrating heights of “Twentytwo”. Incorporating the poetry of Dylan Thomas, Cumming repeatedly uses the phrase “if I could” while detailing a message of hope for someone in need with the understanding that even a near-perfect song isn’t always enough to save a soul. In such moments, Sunflower Bean lead melancholy and optimism to the same dance floor and set them spinning across the room. Comparisons to NYC legends Velvet Underground or Blondie might be premature but the band crafts their music in a way that demands emotional involvement from the listener and allows it to play out over an entire album.
My favorite part of Twentytwo In Blue is that the band anticipates the hipster backlash (“it rips off Fleetwood Mac”, “they are style over substance”, “other bands have done this”, etc.) and doesn’t blink. If anything, they accentuate the very elements that the underground will hate them for. Yeah, other bands have done this before and everyone can spot the influences these days because we are exposed to so much more music early in life. None of that diminishes a great rock-n-roll record. Sunflower Bean have a career-making album with Twentytwo In Blue which will garner them some pretty big font on festival posters this summer. However, where they are in five, or even ten, years promises to be even more exciting.