The broody aesthetic, the New York sophistication, the Yves Saint Laurent modelling contract: Sunflower Bean might have all the warning signs of musical poseurs, but their debut album ‘Human Ceremony’-an intriguing melting pot of influence and innovation-proves they’ve got double the substance to back up the style. From the soft dream pop fluctuations of 2013 to the brash, heavy single Wall Watcher via This Kind of Feeling’s playful and self-concious hues of classic rock, theirs is not an album trying to tick any boxes or take itself too seriously. The dual vocals of Julia Cummings and Nick Kivlen work perfectly, sometimes giving each other space and entwining beautifully at others, never better than in the mournful Oh I Just Don’t Know, whose curiously earnest religious references (“I just don’t know my place in this world/Jesus has a place for me“) could have come straight from the depths of a Velvet Underground album. This sense of honesty and lack of pretension is striking, taking the form of a childlike naivety and awe in Creation Myth and addressing daily routine in forceful, feel-good rock song I Was Home, “I was home and then I wasn’t” might speak of the mundane but it strikes a chord in its simplicity.
‘Human Ceremony’ takes on colossal, sometimes extra-terrestrial themes- identity, purpose, God and space all take their turn under the microscope- but despite its intellectual boldness and sometimes ethereal feel, this is an album that manages to “float away from the planet” with its feet planted firmly in the ground.