When Sam Larson launched her fuzz-pop band BLOOM with a self-titled debut in January, she chose arguably the perfect nom de plume for the year that was to unfold. With the September release of their six-song cassette Adoration, Larson and her new band have blossomed in something fantastic.
The drum and bass rush to catch up when Larson beams the opening lines of “He Got Me High,” the bopper with a sidewinder hook that kicks off Adoration. That rhythm section (Mike Reed and Joseph Montes) lays down a catchy foundation- a quintessential ingredient for any satisfying pop-punk tune.
Larson’s vocal performance matches the song’s bombast with a mesmerizing mix of urgency and longing. “High” ends with the fading crunch of her guitar, offering a moment of silence for her voice to conjure up “New Wave Dream.” When the guitar jangles on in, this time it does so with the same slacker fuzz you hear on the Smashing Pumpkins’ single “Drown.” Larson’s voice is softer here, fluttering, twirling and falling over her own effervescent chugging.
Two songs in, it’s clear BLOOM has evolved significantly since that first release. Among those nine early tracks are alternate versions of “He Got Me High” and “New Wave Dream,” both pretty different and pretty damn good in their own right. The juxtaposition of styles offers a nice contrast between the crews involved with both albums.
In January, Larson was handling vocal duties, guitar and bass while working with Chris Kramer (Slushy/The Lemons/No Bunny) and a drum machine. On Adoration she’s joined by bandmates Montes and Reeb, with recording, mixing and mastering by Brian Cook (Panda Riot).
The new sound is brighter, less industrial, and more focused, but also more muscular. Tighter melodies and hooks electrify the re-rendered tracks, and Larson’s skill as a singer and a songwriter seems to have made significant strides over the roughly nine months between recordings. Another song that appears on both albums, “I Wanna Make Your Dreams Come True,” is a perfect example of this maturation: The Bloom-version plods a bit, with Larson tucking timid vocals behind a layer of skronk in a way that feels isolating- as if those dissonant guitars and the gloominess were a moat to keep us out.
Conversely, the incarnation on Adoration is ripe and loud and boldly booms open with a defiant swagger. The beat and melody of the chorus have a malt-shoppe rock feel that makes it sing-along friendly, and Larson’s voice is again up to the task of carrying tension and sincerity across nearly every syllable.
Adoration closes on “Yoo-Hoo Johnny,” a searing alt-rock rager that also has a slight early-Pumpkins vibe. Larson, Montes and Reeb bash through it in perfect harmony, delivering a performance that’s both tight and unrestrained. It also feels like the one moment on the album where Larson really cuts loose, letting her until-now carefully controlled voice bristle and flair with white-hot emotion. It’s a raucous way to close out the album, and it sounds like it’d be a an absolute bulldozer live. Will have to confirm soon.
BLOOM released Adoration on September 19th, 2015 and it’s available for purchase via their Bandcamp.