American Bloomers: “Part One”

“Upbeat, sunny retro pop…” L.A.-based American Bloomers have released their debut EP Part One.  The trio features Jaime Wyatt on lead vocals and guitars, and siblings Jane Sheldon and Jonathan Sheldon on vocals, guitars and pianos.  Brian Lee reviews

[Written By Brian Lee, Photo by Rennie Solis]

Listening to the first two songs of American Bloomers’ debut EP, I felt apprehensive about reviewing this style of music. For the longest time, I thought the reemergence of Americana Music is confounding as I’d never quite enjoyed the aesthetic of a honky-tonk vocal in the midst of slow jamming banjo/mandolin. However, in recent years, I’ve come to terms with contemporary Americana Music (Thanks to NPR’s Bob Boilen for making me fall in love with Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone”).

So what’s the true appeal in contemporary Americana Music? It’s the eclectic range – think of Willie Nelson’s country alternative infused with folk, blues, jazz and old-school rock n roll.  And these are the elements you’ll find in American Bloomers’ debut EP: They blend a vast repertoire of American contemporary and roots music and personify it with their own colorful distinctive style.  I have to admit the cutesy instrumentation (sunny acoustic guitar jangles ala Brian Wilson and the sporadic handclap) is such a dominating element that I felt compelled to classify this record as a sunshine pop record. Through the cheery harmonies of Baroque Pop and the catchiness of commercial jingles, they still sound very happy when they’re singing a sad song (Even Jonathan Sheldon admitted to the band’s affinity with 60’s So-Cal Pop in one of his interviews). 

Aside from “Love Will Wreck You,” I think there are a few standouts from this well produced EP. I thought “Shamrock” should be an instant hit – a very liberating tune about finding solace within yourself. It starts out with a slightly discordant electric guitar riff (ala The Rolling Stones) then the ingenious use of piano serve to bring in some sensuality and poise to the aggressive guitar play. Finally, when Wyatt’s multi-tracked vocals kick in, the song gains a sense of mischief, particularly when she exclaims “I know there’s a place you can go…you can be left alone.” I thought I found my footing in this song, and then Wyatt intensifies her vocal and the solo electric guitar play resurfaces as the track progresses – At this point, I just want to run free and bop my head against the frantic electric guitar chorus effects!

Funny enough, I think the first 2 songs of the EP are their least memorable songs. “Blue Dress” and “Faded” are songs about gaining maturity built on beautiful sweeping string melodies, distinctive drumming, and massive choruses you can sing along with. Even at their musically least interesting (which these songs are), the trio’s sincere delivery saves them from being another cheesy nostalgia track.

With songs like “Never Had the Chance” and “Fell For Love,” you really feel the dynamic these three have with each other and it’s like singing these songs is their way of dealing with some of the downsides of falling in/out of love.

Overall, I enjoyed the upbeat, sunny retro pop American Bloomers has to offer– These are songs with an undeniable zest for life, it’s almost irresistible to deny that exuberance.    Although optimism and enthusiasm seem to be the dominant qualities of American Bloomers, deep down they’re trying to convey an emotional presence that is honest and real, lyrically. It’s a big risk for a debut album — and so many bands screw it up — but not American Bloomers.

Watch American Bloomers – “Never Had the Chance”