On February 28, 2015, Sunflower Bean opened for Wolf Alice at the now defunct Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Greenpoint. Though the two bands were perfect compliments of each other, their sounds were noticeably different – Sunflower Bean was easily the hardest rocking, loudest, and most energetic of the two acts. Complete with screams, fuzzed out guitar solos and a mosh pit, it was easy to see why the NYC act was one of the best rising bands in the country. Unfiltered and unrelenting, Sunflower Bean had carved up quite the live reputation, opening for virtually every buzzy guitar band while headlining virtually every Bushwick DIY space imaginable.
So why does the album sound so different?
Reining in nearly every part of their sound that makes them so unique and fun, Human Ceremony plays like a mature record for a band that should be anything but. We get glimpses of the old Sunflower Bean – like the outros to “Creation Myth” or “2013” – but even those are exceptions rather than the norm for the young NYC-based band. Lead single “Wall Watcher” is the hardest hitting song on the album – surely one that will reach its full potential in a live setting – but here, the production feels restraining, cleaner than it should be.
Made up of dueling vocalists Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen, along with drummer Jacob Farber, SB played over a hundred shows in the past year, and their chemistry on Human Ceremony is absolutely apparent. With complex Johnny Marr-esque guitar riffs, every member of the band is firing at all cylinders, just quite simply in a more refrained setting. Julia Cumming’s voice never quite hits the highs of pre-album single “Tame Impala” – more often than not, she sings in an almost falsetto, a far cry from the screams that punctuated Show Me Your Seven Secrets, the band’s 2015 EP.
All in all, Sunflower Bean stripped away more than was necessary. The blunt truth is that the refreshing and energizing band that birthed “Tame Impala” and “Rock & Roll Heathen” just didn’t show up to the Human Ceremony recording sessions. The most exciting young band in Brooklyn put out a record that in no way does them justice.