I am not a child of the 60's or 70's. I am, however, a child of a child of the 60's and 70's, and that has made all the difference in my current state of musical appreciation. Not to say the hippie aesthetic is my thing--far from it--but folk and proto-rock planted a certain something, and every once in a while, it's fun to revisit. Enter Flowers, the forthcoming debut LP from Sweden's Children of the Sün.
Sonically and thematically, Children of the Sün's brand seems, at first blush, easy to place. Vocal harmonies? Check. Liberal application of hammond-esque keys? Check. Pitter-pat percussion? Check. Airy acoustics? Check. Back-to-the-earth sentimentalism? Double check. Take your favorite carefree folk rock--Traffic or perhaps Blind Faith as several examples among many--and mix, sparingly, with the modern edge and vocal prowess of MaidaVale or Halos and Hurricanes-era Avatarium. The latter may be a stretch, but Josefina Berglund Ekholm and Jennie-Ann Smith certainly share similarities in syrupy-yet-grounded delivery.
Why “first blush,” however? As it turns out, the acoustic intro and the hooky highlight “Her Game” are but a fraction of the unique genre stew offered across the breadth of the Flowerpatch. Take “Hard Working Man” as a prime example, which feels more out of the Dixie Chick's country-pop playbook than anything (and this, I hasten to add, is far from an insult.) And then we've got the intriguing “Like the Sound,” which sounds like Church of the Cosmic Skull with a dangerous case of confident vocal gravitas. The swell and fall of Josefina's croon on this track is haunting--dare I say goosebump inducing--and cements it as the album's standout track. This presents a thin margin, however, as the choral “Emmy” as well as the aforementioned “Hard Working Man” and “Her Game” are absolutely brilliant tracks as well. Like the best of their feather-in-the-hair influences, these tracks have meaty hooks, standing on the merit of massive songwriting chops, rather than an established ambiance.
Critically, there are two aspects that stand out after repeat listens. Firstly, the variety, while an obvious strong suit, means that some distinct instrumentation is employed once, and thus feels more like an outlet than a piece of the album's fabric. I'd love, for example, to hear more of that twangy guitar, for example, but the other tracks are so unique in their identity that there really is no room. Eclecticism is a strength, but it's a fine line between “establishing individuality” and “sabotaging the bond that holds the album together.” That said, am easy solution next time around is simply throwing in a few more tracks--at 35-ish minutes, there's room to play. Secondly, while the instrumentation is particularly evocative, “Sunchild” leans so far into the sappy flower-child ambiance that it loses me after a point. Personal preference, no doubt, but a notable moment in the grand scheme.
I've gone back and forth on my justification of Flowers’ inclusion in the Village annals...because it obviously made the cut, albeit not on the merits of an intrinsically heavy nature. Rather, Children of the Sün appears herein because the traditional from which they are born informs, on many levels, what we listen to on a regular basis. And that's not to mention the sheer strength of the songwriting and their technical chops, which certainly deserve recognition. If you typically dwell under the umbrella of the heavy, aggressive, and loud, this album may not be your cup of tea--and I get it. But if you don't mind taking basking in a grassy meadow from time to time, give Children of the Sun a well-deserved chance. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Children of the Sün - Flowers will be released July 26th from The Sign Records
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.