Sunflower Bean – ‘Twentytwo In Blue’ Review

The NYC trio's second album is brimming with rage, humour and humanity

Sunflower Bean are all grown up. Well, as mature as any bunch of 22-year-olds will ever be – but compared to when they burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, the NYC trio feel like a whole new band. Their 2016 debut ‘Human Ceremony’ was cobbled together from singles they penned as teens, though had considerable merits as a slice of old-school rock’n’roll paired with pop sensibilities. ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ is a different beast entirely.

This is where the group find their voice and prove that they truly have something to say. Take lead single ‘Crisis Fest’ – a call-to-arms rocker that’ll have you scribbling anti-establishment mottos on a placard pronto: “There’s a coup in our country/it’s happening now” runs Julia Cumming’s furious growl. Partly inspired by the current political landscape in the USA, there’s naturally a rebellious streak peppered throughout the album, as on ‘Burn It’ and ‘Human For’, alongside a distinct quality of humanity that the cronies in power could never harbour.

It’s a welcome new side to the trio, but their reinvention is carefully concocted so as not to bin the lusher elements of their debut – rather, it builds on them. ‘I Was A Fool’ pays homage to the heavenly aspects of ‘Human Ceremony’ with ethereal Fleetwood Mac-style harmonies, as does ‘Memoria’. But there’s something truly special about ‘Twentytwo’, far and away the most complete song the trio have released. Delicately incorporating elements of the poetry of Dylan Thomas in the chorus (“I do not go quietly into the night that calls me, even when I’m alone”), Julia Cumming’s potent lyrics offer up their own assessments of injustice too: “If I could do it I would take her in my arms/I would unwrong all his wrongs/I could stay here and write a thousand songs”.

For a trio in their early ’20s, this album possesses a strikingly sound level of judgement. Not one song feels out of place or undercooked. Even the more lighthearted tracks (like ‘Sinking Sands’, on which guitarist Nick Kivlen sings about his pal Max “thinking in comic sans”) feel like they belong, no matter how playful and whimsical the lyrics. With any justice, this’ll be the album that catapults them into being recognised as one of the most important artists in the game. But not to worry: as they croon on ‘Anyway You Like’, time is most definitely on their side. And it’s astonishing what they’ve done with it thus far.

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