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Judy G.

CD of The Week

Week of 5/09/22

    Sunflower Bean - Headful of Sugar (Mom + Pop)

    On Sunflower Bean’s new album Headful of Sugar, guitarist Nick Kivlen sings, “Life is short and the cliffs are high” on the delightfully orchestrated single “In Flight:” a poetic sentiment that permeates the album.

    Covid created a yearning for things (like playing live) that the hardest-working band in New York had taken for granted. But as the days ticked by, they understood it was best to let go of what they could not control and embrace what they had. Those ideas forced their hand in production as well. This was their first time being completely self-reliant, recording by themselves in a Manhattan apartment quarantine bubble. Drummer Olive Faber took over the engineering helm – their first time producing. Kivlen explained the process to Flood Magazine, saying “We tried to create a sort of energy like we were at a party…everyone walking around the house doing whatever.” Bassist/singer Julia Cumming added that they planned an album that makes you want to dance.

    Luckily the definition of what is danceable can be interpreted loosely. While their last record and EP were tributes to smooth 70s and energetic new wave rock, Headful of Sugar is a near-complete departure, containing a couple of light, catchy pop numbers, but mostly experimenting with dark and sludgy, buzzing 00’s rock, even flirting with dubstep.

    On one hand, Headful of Sugar contains the slow dance for non-slow dancers, “Stand By Me,” the elegant momentum stopper “Otherside,” and the best song on the album, the fun-yet-delicate “I Don’t Have Control Sometimes,” which accept one’s own faults. But the majority of the tracks brood and fester just under the surface. On the plodding, repetitive “Roll the Dice,” Cumming and Kivlen sing sarcastically of corporate greed, even alluding to Trump (or a bad relationship) singing, “He’s the deceiver, he tells you what you want and then he leaves”. The dark, bombastic all-night party rocker “Beat the Odds“ and Metric-ish “Post Love” sing of embracing dark, unhealthy choices. Negative repercussions from the partisan news cycle are reconciled with on the echoing, synthy “Baby Don’t Cry,” and the title track dabbles in trip-hop, sharing DNA with Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood.” Album closer “Feel Somebody” just downright feels like a Garbage cover.

    Coming out of what feels like the other side of Covid, one wonders if these philosophies will still be savored as we gain control back of our lives (fingers crossed there). Will this album seem dated and will a song like “Who Put You Up to This” that sings “If only I could feel so free…We’re letting go for real” be isolated to a certain period of time? Or will it be absorbed as another complex level of thought that will never leave, even as sophisticated touring schedules are resumed…speaking of which, Sunflower Bean is playing The Foundry this Saturday, May 14th. Go see them, as they’ve been waiting for more than two years to play again for you.
    Review by Shepard Ritzen

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