Bloom Cheek, the second full-length album from the Phoenix based-band, What Laura Says, offers lush pop gems that are often hard to categorize within a single genre. Ranging influences that include psychedelia, country, blues and indie rock, give pause to conventional wisdom that says you're better off sticking to one style. Throughout Bloom Cheek, one thing is remarkably clear: these guys really know what they are doing with those instruments in their hands. All five members of What Laura Says make a crucial impact on almost every song, conveying a sense of true musicianship. The rhythm section flourishes on opener “Training," creating a groove that hardly subsides for the rest of the album. What are left are punchy piano and guitar riffs to fill in the cracks. The sound created is complete, confident and cool.
Though certainly a pop record, it might take a few listens to properly digest what is heard. Bloom Cheek plays much like a jerky roller coaster ride. The fourth track of the album, “Lines and Colours," is easily the most accessible to listeners looking for a straightforward indie rock song. Lighthearted, sunny, upbeat piano pop punctuates the song, giving it a slight Rogue Wave feel. The vocals echo and create atmosphere, seemingly improvised, not wanting to show up the vibrant sounds being created by the music, choosing to match it and work with it instead.
Then the roller coaster jerks you sideways without much warning.
What follows this unfettered accessibility is two minutes of piano, nothing behind it, serving as an interlude into the next track, “Gardener of Wonders”, a full-on Americana jam that is still enjoyable, if not completely unexpected. Folky plucking of the guitar and vocals that you might swear couldn’t belong to the same band emphasize the change of genre. Everything about the song exudes feel-good vibes and an improvisation that appears to be a staple of the group.
One of the most welcomed surprises of Bloom Cheek comes in the form of a fully planned psychedelic “jam” session titled “Grocery List.” The percussion (including hand claps, shaker and vibraslaps), builds the tension until the 70’s style shredding takes over the speakers and invites the listener on a brilliantly executed ride to the past.
If there is a problem with the album, it surprisingly has nothing to do with the almost too vast amount of terrain that is covered musically. Even with the unannounced switching of musical styles, the album is consistent in delivering strong pieces of work. The problem lies within the use of interludes in between more than a few of the songs. Fighting an uphill battle already (as far as creating a flow goes), it is puzzling that the group would choose to slow things down with these unnecessary pauses in action.
Nevertheless, it is a small price to pay for such a solid release from a band that has been together for just four years. The ambitiousness of an album that draws from so many different genres cannot be understated, but What Laura Says make a great case for themselves. Each song is held together with tight, unorthodox percussion, grooving bass, punchy lyrics, guitar and vocals. Clearly demonstrating the fact that they have an extensive grasp in the concept of rhythm and timing, the Phoenix based quintet makes it a point to show off all of their skills, which they do quite successfully on Bloom Cheek.