Music review: Sunflower Bean | Teen Canteen | Animal Collective

Sunflower Bean, Broadcast, Glasgow, Rating: ****

Sunflower Bean cant be pinned down via a glance. Picture: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Glamour

On the basis of their appearance, this young New York trio could have been ready to throw practically any old style of music at their audience. Bassist and vocalist Julia Cumming’s punky bleached blonde short hair was contrasted with a virtuous-looking heavy tartan dress, guitarist and co-vocalist Nick Kivlen resembled Bob Dylan circa 1967, while drummer Jacob Faber hammered away behind them like a junior John Bonham. Sunflower Bean’s music isn’t quite as eclectic as all that, but their debut album Human Ceremony does unite a broad mix of influences: garage-psych in the tight, muscular riffing and washes of trippy effects-bathed guitar that made up Wall Watcher; trashy grunge softened by Kivlen’s bright Stratocaster jangling in the case of Come On. Cummings’ voice sounded both lush in the sense of the Ninetiess English shoegazers, and she conjured fury and beauty with equal composure. That they managed to land their radio-friendly red herring of a really quite pretty indie-pop single, Easier Said, in a way that didn’t feel entirely incongruous was a success in itself.

In its lower ebbs this show felt a bit like being trapped in a basement practice room with your mates’ band jamming full tilt as if no one was watching. At its best, though, it was frantically good fun.

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Teen Canteen, Mono, Glasgow, Rating: ****

In 2012, five women from Glasgow collectively agreed that the holy grail recipe for perfect pop involved three-part harmony, booming beats and simple, haunting synth lines. As it turned out, they were entirely correct.

Four years on from this eureka moment, TeenCanteen have honed their formula with a debut album recorded in mono and titled Say It All With a Kiss. It will almost certainly become a touchstone for discerning fans of sharp, lyrical indie-pop.

They performed practically every track from the record at this packed-out launch party. There were points, especially during impressively crafted gems such as Honey and You’re Still Mine, where my resistance to hyperbole was hopelessly conquered by the realisation that they’re one of the best new groups I’ve heard in years.

Their songs of devotion, heartache and sisterhood are underpinned by an irresistibly yearning sense of melancholy. That’s always been key to the classic girl-group sound, which TeenCanteen embellish with a distinct identity of their own.

Key to their appeal is singer/keyboardist and chief songwriter Carla Easton, whose sprite-like appearance belies a strong, soulful voice. She sings in her native accent, which adds to the charm without ever once hinting at cutesy kitsch. On the contrary, Easton’s gang radiate a kind of sweet, wise sincerity, which elevates their music beyond mere pastiche.

If Phil Spector was ever called upon to produce The Bangles in a Glasgow basement, the results would probably sound something like this. The unaffected magic of TeenCanteen is something to behold.


Animal Collective, ABC, Glasgow, Rating: ****

Baltimore quartet Animal Collective have emerged as one of the most influential musical cults of the last decade, leading by example when it comes to studio experimentation while retaining a strong pop foundation.

Latest album Painting With, from which the majority of their current set is drawn, is a fidgety beast and it appears that someone also spiked their drink on the day they designed the accompanying stage set with its cartoony inflatable totems, hanging tribal masks and lysergic projections which pulsed along with the synthesisers.

This colourful hotchpotch still made some kind of stylistic sense – much like their eclectic sound which mashes up propulsive psychedelia, indie pop and acid electronica influences with progressive elements and a pervading sense of playful discovery.

So if you didn’t particularly respond to one section of their set, there would be something else of sonic interest along directly – some intoxicating arpeggios, skittering rhythms, soaring choral vocals, tribal chanting or a dose of the jabbering call-and-response interplay between singers Panda Bear and Avey Tare.

They did get lost down their own musical wormhole for a bit in the middle of the set though even that extended raucous wigout had some joyful, unfettered appeal. They eventually climbed back out the other side to deliver something ecstatic and climactic. But never ones to follow a conventional trajectory, they returned to the stage for an offbeat encore which added a question mark rather than a full stop at the end of their set.