Bloomsday Peels Back Their Layers on Heart of the Artichoke

Iris James Garrison’s second album is a tapestry of acoustic melodies so full of warmth that they act like traveling companions on what would otherwise be a lonely trek.

Music Reviews Bloomsday
Bloomsday Peels Back Their Layers on Heart of the Artichoke

There is always at least one moment, in the middle of a childhood sleepover, where something clicks into place: A thought comes out in the high of a late night, widened by the comfort of friendship; a resurfaced memory, or a feeling that is ready to unfurl, energized by a circle of care. Iris James Garrison, the New York-based singer-songwriter who records as Bloomsday, sounds like they’ve had plenty of truth telling moments—with friends, partners, themselves. Honesty comes naturally to Garrison; their 2022 debut album, the quietly stirring Place to Land, was written primarily about their gender transition, along with other major life upheavals.

Their wistfully sweet second album, Heart of the Artichoke, is a tapestry of acoustic melodies so full of warmth that they act like traveling companions on what would otherwise be a lonely trek. Opener “Where I End and You Begin,” where Garrison looks back on the lingering intimacies of a close friend, swirls with hopeful reminiscence—the howl of an electric guitar echoes the ghostly persuasions of love lost, as Garrison sings the title over and over with misty eyes. Likewise, the lighter “Virtual Hug” skips over the pain of leaving a loved one. “You sent me a message / For when I land / A series of pictures / A memory log,” Garrison recants with a sigh, while twangy guitars encircle the sour mood with a hopeful lilt. “I’ll look back when I’m sad / It’ll get me out of bed,” they continue. These are realities that are as painful as they are cathartically comforting.

Other truths have a hazier gauze. “Dollar Slice” is a swinging, sobering ballad that’s part-religious epiphany, part-city-living lament. Here, Garrison comes across God in the most nightmarishly of mundane New Yorker activities (buying a pizza, riding the MTA) and reckons with the hectic ego rush that the city tends to induce in you when you’ve lived there long enough. “Validation, vices, temptations,” Garrison lists off, before letting out a cry to preserve their own sanity: “Cog in a wheel trapped in a simulation.” It’s maybe a little on the nose, but the visuals are so potent—and Garrison’s intent is so humorously direct—that the song plays as a wake up call for anxiety-addled New Yorkers, or anyone caught in the daily repetitions of a metropolis’ routine.

Aside from that one mention of God, Heart of the Artichoke is primarily a record centered around friendship. Garrison recorded it with loved ones and frequent collaborators close to the New York indie scene and beyond: Alex Harwood (who worked closely with Garrison on their debut), drummer Andrew Stevens (Lomelda, Hovvdy), Babehoven’s Ryan Albert and Maya Bon, Hannah Pruzinsky (h.pruz, Sister.) and plenty others. That closeness permeates through the album, particularly through its more lively tracks. “Object Permanence” is a loving song on safety in togetherness, coupled with joyous, jangly guitars and shimmers; “Bumper Sticker,” meanwhile, sounds like a road trip through its striding verses—its wandering piano riffs and wailing guitar lines exemplifying a cluttered mind jogging through uncertain feelings: “I need to settle down,” Garrison cautions, as voice echoes roil and pant into a fever pitch.

But it’s on “Artichoke” where Garrison seems to more clearly channel that wandering, childhood self who’s desperate to not only seek truth from friends but to share their own authenticity. Guitars flicker and soft hand drumming crackles like a low campfire, as Garrison sings softly with a light smile. Their musings may not be fully formed, but they come from somewhere strong, sturdy with a bit of fleshy softness. “We’ll make a big mess, throw it on the floor,” they sing. “The heart of the artichoke keeps me wanting more.” Like the title suggests, Bloomsday is falling in love with everything around them, wandering further in search of the genuine and finding it through community, care and a corporeal oneness.

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