Paste (magazine) - "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."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[E]ven if they're doing things that have been done before, it sounds like they're discovering these things for the first time, and that excitement is palpable on HUMAN CEREMONY."
Recording information: Thump Studios.
Photographer: Ruby June.
The Brooklyn-based trio Sunflower Bean (singer/guitarist Nick Kivlen, singer/bassist Julia Cumming, and drummer Jacob Faber) play with the fire and enthusiasm of youth. Their debut album, Human Ceremony, is full of rampaging psych pop, sticky sweet indie pop and some moments that seem like a mashup of X, Blondie, Tame Impala, and the Blake Babies. For such a young band, they are in full control of their sound. Kivlen conjures up murky riffs, spiraling leads, and chiming arpeggios out of his guitar, each song flitting from one classic sound to another. Faber holds down the beat steadily, never letting things drift off or get weighed down by riffage. Cumming's bass playing is propulsive and restrained, her vocals are one of the group's strengths. The pure tone of her voice fits well alongside scruffy guitars or heavy thumping drums, and when the band shifts into pop mode, like on the jangling '90s heartbreak ballad "Easier Said," she brings a lot of heartsick yearning to the table. The three members of the band blend together perfectly, even Kivlen's yelping vocals, which could have been a distraction, are perfectly balanced, and the songs where he and Cumming duet sound like alternate world Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood epics. "I Was Home" is the best of these; with its slacker vibe and huge guitar hooks it sounds like a lost grunge-era gem. The whole album is full of great songs like this, whether it's the rambling witch-psych of "This Kinda Feeling" or the slowly unspooling drama found on "Creation Myth," the trio are adept at blending catchy melodies and interesting arrangements. A handful of the songs are good enough that they'll be stuck in listener's heads right away and will prove hard to shake. Check out the insistent "Wall Watcher" or the sweetly peaceful "I Want You to Give Me Enough Time," for examples. Even the songs that seem a little derivative don't suffer for it thanks to the energy they bring. Human Ceremony is an impressive debut from a band who seem positioned to make many more excellent albums if they can continue to do such a good job of mining the past for gold and revamping it in their own fashion like they do so well here. ~ Tim Sendra