Listening to the debut album from Brooklyn trio Sunflower Bean is a bit like flipping through some smart stoner’s impeccably refined record collection. All the correct drone-rock references are present: the Velvet Underground at their beachiest, the Autobahn liftoff of vintage Seventies Kraut-rock, the Eighties drug-punk of Spaceman 3, recent garage-grind aesthetes like Ty Segall, and the entire college-jangle canon from early R.E.M. to the Smiths to Real Estate and beyond. Sunflower Bean take these influences and shape them like Silly Putty into sweet, ingenious psych-pop songs that are more economical and compact than you’d expect from a band whose hottest tune is called “Wall Watcher.” “What do you do when you’re stuck between days?” singer-bassist Julia Cumming wonders at one point. The answer: You cut through the malaise with curt little tunes that refuse to sit still.
Human Ceremony is a very impressive record for a band that’s only been putting out music for about a year. “Come On” shifts from jagged punk rave-up to autumnal dream-weave; the shimmering arpeggios on “Easier Said” evoke Johnny Marr and Peter Buck on a tandem bike along the Thames; the surfy speed-demon “2013” makes the recent past sound like a trippy tomorrow; and “I Want You To Give Me Enough Time,” where Cumming duets beautifully with singer-guitarist Nick Kivlen, is an adorable twee-soul smoothie.
Sunflower Bean’s lyrics can marinate in bored indecision, but sometimes they also try to punch out of it. The scorching “I Was Home” goes from everyday-whatever realism (“I was home and then I wasn’t”) to escapist rock-star fantasy (“I had a dream/I saw myself on TV/And I viewed myself in many different ways”). Then again, with songs like these, it won’t be a fantasy for long.