While 'Regina' enchanted in folk, pop and jazz, 'WONDERBLOOM' springs into the next equinox.
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One of the most fascinating flowers on Earth is the Titan Arum. A rare flower that can take seven to nine years to blossom. In the end, it flourishes into a large colossal of budding flowers.
Becca Stevens’ latest LP ‘WONDERBLOOM’ takes title nods to the Titan Arum. Primarily, for it’s similar journey. A tireless six-month project with 18-hour workdays. Yet, the hard work pays off. While ‘Regina’ enchanted in folk, pop and jazz, ‘WONDERBLOOM’ springs into the next equinox. Featuring Crosby,Collier, and more than 40 collabs, its Stevens unabashed and delightfully unexpected.
Divvied in 14 tracks of dance-worthy funk, R&B, synth and (et al.) pop, ‘WONDERBLOOM’ charms full-force. The first track ‘Low on Love’ eases in with Stevens’ breathy vocals. Then, it bursts into an electro-pop shimmer. Analog synths mix with colorful hues of folk. Yet, the Brooklyn-based singer never strays from her trademarks. Uniquely bright, it’s M83 meets Stevens’ instrumental prowess.
‘I Wish’ surpasses expectations within the first funky strums. Warble synths and 70s funk guitar drive Stevens’ sassy R&B-like verses into the bridge. ‘Between Me & You’ starts with steady drums before gradually building with Stevens‘ vocals, rolling guitar parts and jazz chord progressions.
However, her most autobiographical anthem is ‘Good Stuff.’ It starts with a murmuring synth before exploding into a radiant, post-80’s disco pop track. According to Stevens, “it’s a song about things I’ve gone through in my career, and the struggles that so many women face in this industry.” The finale erupts with gospel-stirring choruses, Mini Moog sounding synths (think Biggie’s ‘Big Poppa’), and Stevens’ triumphant, powerhouse vocals.
The most exciting song is ‘Slow Burn.’ Stevens MJ-like vocals cuts through the opening verse. Then, funk guitar strums with echoes of Prince in ‘Sign of the Times’ takes center stage. With a dance-able groove, dynamic key changes, and irresistible, catchy synths, it is Stevens on her best game.
Wistful ‘Charlemagne’ features more subtle synths, phased out guitars, off-tempo beats, and pop vocals. Edgy ‘You Didn’t Know’ struts in a minor key and heavy acoustic strums. Hints of jazz and blues add color to a more serious narrative. Beautifully cinematic and dark, ‘I Will Avenge You’ is another standout from Stevens. Lyrically intense, it features complex vocals and sludgy guitar distortion. Desert-rock firebrands Kyuss (or whatever Josh Homme does, frankly) would likely approve. The cut ends with Stevens’ urgent vocals over a jagged guitar wondrously spiraling out of control.
‘True Minds’ gravitates back to the electro-pop almost chamber-pop feel. Woven with synths, piano, strings, it is experimental and well-crafted. Different, yet character of Stevens. It reaches an R&B bridge before ending in a glitter of synths and guitar. However, the most dazzling, fluorescent piece is ‘Feels Like This.’ It delights in a minor key with more modern pop and R&B elements. It utilizes a lot of space and dramatic instrumentals. An ‘Evening Star’/Fripp guitar illuminates in the bridge.
Soulful ‘Never Mine’ mesmerizes with unique sounds and vocal harmonies. Its features beautiful instrumentation with light drums and drums, while blending effortlessly with Stevens’ aching lyrics. Another highlight is ‘Response to Criticism.’ The cut takes a complete U-Turn from the LP with blusier guitar riffs and bends. It carries the same velvety feel as The Black Keys’ tribute to Junior Kimbrough in ‘Chulahoma’.
‘Halfway’ is also hard to define but shines with a gorgeous harp that intertwines with more layered synths. A track that proves Stevens is a true artist who continues to challenge her sound. The album closes with the heartfelt ‘Heather’s Letter to her Mother,’ written for Heather Heyer, the 32-year old peaceful protester killed in the 2017 white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville. It is touching piece that ultimately ends with a choir of children.