You know when you start listening to an album and you think, “This is it. I’ve found it. The album I’ve been waiting for my entire life”? That happened to me within seconds of playing Sunflower’s first full-length studio album, Within My World. I don’t want to make any assumptions about you, but I’m pretty sure that this album is going to make you lose your fucking shit. But like, in a nice way. Gently. Folksily. Psychedelically. As a flower softly opens its petals to the morning sun, so will you lose your shit.
But just in case you need more convincing, Sunflower is a seven-person psychedelic-folk band out of Cedar Grove featuring ukulele, harmonica, floating harmonies, and a mothafuckin’ djembe played by drummer Tyler Curtis. “Brother Houdini (or a Brief Moment of Clarity)” offers the listener 55 seconds of spooky sounds, and it’s my favorite track on the album. And if you’re not into a minute-long spooky sounds interlude in the middle of an album, then you should stop reading now because we have nothing to say to each other.
Just kidding. Come back! We still have to get into the rest of the album.
Engineered and mastered by the soon-to-be-world-famous Max Rauch, Within My World starts out gentle and sweet with ukulele picking and the perfect complement of Bobby Kirner’s indie-folk drone and Emily Noll’s almost husky harmonies on “World of Porcelain.” It continues with “California’s Waiting,” the sort of upbeat, rocking, jangling-synth-and-guitar combo that I’d blast with the windows down while driving up the coast highway. It’s a mark of talent and thoughtful songwriting when a band has an easily identifiable sound, but still manages to keep every song from sounding alike, and Sunflower achieves that with this album.
While the music is poppy and optimistic, the lyrics often stray into more serious subject matter. “Keep Yourself Together” folds the listener in and makes them a part of the group, addressing our collective struggles with a series of questions: “What do we do when the world is a puzzle/That we don’t fit in?/What do we do when our life is just ice/That’s getting too thin?” Then, like a mantra, the refrain responds with a chant of, “Keep yourself together.” It ends with, “Everything is fine/Everything’s divine within my world.” Within My World is an introspective exploration of how the inner world and outer world relate, as in “Asylum,” which closes out the album with a catchy, “Trust me I’m not crazy/Oh, let me out of here/Trust me I’m not nuts at all/I’m just a little weird.” And if you’ve been following NJ Racket for any amount of time, you can probably relate to that sentiment.
With its simple, catchy refrains and melodic riffs, Within My World will stick in your brain. In a good way. Go listen to it on Bandcamp, and when you’re finished, listen to it again, and then again, and again, until Bandcamp won’t let you listen anymore without buying the album, so you buy the album and then listen to it some more. You’ll be glad you did.
Carrie is N.J. Racket's copy editor and contributor of many album and EP reviews. She also has a puppy named Halo and loves Mac N Cheese.