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Sunflower Bean - Headful of Sugar Music Album Reviews

Sunflower Bean - Headful of Sugar Music Album Reviews
On its latest album, the New York band works hard to sound effortless, hindered by inert performances and unconvincing lyrics.

Sunflower Bean are the rare band that identifies as misfits for being too cool: too glam, too rock to fit in with New York’s indie scene. Before the trio ever released an album, Vogue described frontwoman, bassist, and Hedi Slimane muse Julia Cumming as a “living, breathing ad for Saint Laurent,” and rather than playing it down, they’ve used “fashion band” to their advantage. As sleek synth-pop started ceding ground to grungy chic in the middle of the decade, Sunflower Bean were prepared with their brash debut Human Ceremony. 2018’s Twentytwo in Blue matured into resistance-pop politics, while King of the Dudes foresaw a larger embrace of Liz Phair, Shirley Manson, and Courtney Love in their most commercial forms. While their adaptability has helped far more than it hurt, there’s always been a nagging sense that Sunflower Bean had yet to embody an identity all their own. With Headful of Sugar, Sunflower Bean prove the fashionistas right yet again: They’ve always had an identity, and it’s to serve as a billboard for mainstream “indie rock,” the embodiment of what’s hot and what’s not.

Before hearing a second of Headful of Sugar, try to imagine what that actually means in 2022—specifically, in this ostensible post-Peak Pandemic normalization where B-market festival posters need to get filled and coffee shops comfort maskless patrons with All New Indie and the New Alt playlists. Opener “Who Put You Up to This?” accurately predicts Headful of Sugar’s greater lean toward the invisibly popular pop-rock that might variously (and wrongly) get described as “psych” or “surfy.” Co-producer Jake Portrait knows this territory as a member of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and the fuzzed bass and blown-out, telltale drum ticking trace back to a single Tame Impala song.

The gauzy romance of Tango in the Night is swapped out for its Y2K analog of polished countrypolitan breakup songs; the lyrics and sun-soaked production of “Stand By Me” draw from two separate eras of Sheryl Crow, and the brazen rip of “Strong Enough” in its chorus—“Are you man enough to stand by my side?”—is undermined completely by its tossed-off rhyme: “Are you strong enough to ride this ride?” Otherwise, Headful of Sugar accessorizes wisely, drawing on years spent opening for Beck, Cage the Elephant, Interpol, Courtney Barnett, Wolf Alice, and Bernie Sanders: a little bit of disco, a little bit of sync-friendly blog rock, some wry character studies, a healthy amount of post-electoral disillusionment.

At no point do Sunflower Bean sound out of their depth; if they adjusted their coordinates to include a Dan Nigro cowrite or talky post-punk, they’d probably pull that off too. The hooks, the flashy guitar solos, the profanity that will serve as the pull quote in any blurb: Headful of Sugar worked very hard to sound effortless. But coolness is a zero-sum game on a record that, like Twentytwo in Blue, aspires to have Something to Say about The Way We Live. Headful of Sugar launders Cumming and guitarist/vocalist Nick Kivlen’s experiences as “outsiders disillusioned in the modern world,” through “the lived experience of late capitalism”—things that are much tougher to discern in the music if you haven’t read the press materials first.

I can say that “Roll the Dice” successfully pulls off its attempt to wring a pop song from the GameStop stock-manipulation fiasco because its nagging hook (“I just wanna win, win, win, win, win!”) will almost certainly appear in the trailer when Hulu or Netflix buys the rights to the docudrama. But much like the recent wave of scammer-core limited series, Sunflower Bean recuse themselves of rendering any kind of judgment or opinion beyond “I feel bad for our country. But this is tremendous content.” The breakup songs know exactly what responses they hope to trigger—“empowerment bop!” “epic clapback!”—though the performances render them emotionally inert. Instead, “Who Put You Up to This?” and “Stand By Me” resemble the interstitial music of Selling Sunset, its lyrics ruthlessly engineered to embellish someone else’s blow-up or glow-up rather than set a scene itself.

At no point does Headful of Sugar come off as cynical, though the central premise falls apart under the slightest bit of scrutiny: This is a largely beloved, well-connected, and unabashedly accessible rock band trying to be convincing as the voice of outcasts obeying their most reckless impulses. Studio perfectionism and social debauchery have long proven to be compatible, but the dissonance between the drunkalog of “I Don’t Have Control Sometimes” and its rigorously market-tested KROQ-core bounce is too obvious to be unintentional. Besides, alienation is in the eye of the beholder, and Sunflower Bean write about their specific experience candidly on “In Flight.” Reflecting on a rare instance of downtime from touring and disconnection with his Long Island roots, Kivlen sings, “Nothing changes in this town/The people die or they move out,” adding a despairing punchline: “Everyone but me.” It’s the peak of Headful of Sugar, not because it’s the strongest hook or tightest harmony. It’s the most convincing instance of Sunflower Bean writing from the heart. They wear it well.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Sunflower Bean - Headful of Sugar Music Album Reviews Sunflower Bean - Headful of Sugar Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, May 19, 2022 Rating: 5

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