Isn’t life just one big ceremony? Replete with festivities, rituals, and rites, life is a train making frequent stops, shepherding you from one milestone to the next. But eventually the train picks up speed and starts moving faster and the stops become less frequent, however the anticipation for the next stop in the journey isn’t like it used to be. So what happens between those stops, and what does that time in between mean?
That’s what’s on the mind of Sunflower Bean in their debut Human Ceremony. All of the members of the band are under 21 but have hit on an important realization at this young age: life just happens. Big mile markers in life (graduations, birthdays, weddings, etc.) have a tendency to fly by, all while we wait for some sort of big fanfare to mark the occasion. “Wall Watcher” with its ripping bass line and chugging guitar, reflects on how quickly life changes, “Holding on to things that mean so little in the present / Where did the time go / Gets faster as we go”. Julia Cummings, sounding like a dreamier Debbie Harry, is watching out the window as life flies past.
On “I Was Home”, the album’s halfway point, Julia Cummings and Nick Kivlen explore the notion that the time in-between is no less valuable than those big days. “What do you do when you’re stuck between days?” Cummings asks rhetorically. The refrain throughout the song “I was home / Then I wasn’t” boils a day down to a binary equation. It’s easy to feel guilty about a so-called wasted day, but anything can seem like a waste depending on the particular view one takes.
The uneasy feeling of wasting time is only enhanced when it could be spent creating. Sunflower Bean ruminates on the gap between idea and actual art on “Easier Said”. “Act so tough / Make it cool / Don’t be afraid / To see it through” Cummings both laments and implores. The act of pouring your thoughts out often stands in the face of appearing cool, but moving past that is the only way to create something truly worthwhile.
Despite these grand themes, the music never veers into the maudlin (a quick pit stop into prog rock on “Creation Myth”, with a musical representation of the creation of the earth to close out the track, is a cheeky diversion). The band is self aware enough to keep the tracks airy and ethereal, and then drop the hammer with shredding guitars and pounding drums at just the right times. Cummings and Kivlen’s voices serve as compliments to each other, balancing out vocals and adding depth to lyrics that are sung by each.
Sunflower Bean’s debut is a standout, something they realize is difficult today on closing track “Space Exploration Disaster”, “In the year 2015 / No one can hear you scream”. Unlike space, it’s not because of a lack of sound that no one can hear you scream today, it’s because everyone is yelling that much louder. Listen closely enough, though, and hear Sunflower Bean’s distinct voice.
1. Human Ceremony
2. Come On
4. Easier Said
5. This Kind of Feeling
6. I Was Home
7. Creation Myth
8. Wall Watcher
9. I Want You To Give Me Enough Time
10. Oh, I Just Don’t Know
11. Space Exploration Disaster