In 2017, a 17-year old Bea Kristi shared her first single under the name Beabadoobee, a pillowy acoustic single full of youthful naivety and wholesome feeling. Kristi’s singing was gentle and airy, fitting right in with the sounds of bedroom pop. Inspired by Stephen Malkmus, Alanis Morissette and the music of the ’90s, Kristi has been on an upward trajectory toward stardom, her music evolving alongside her well beyond its small-scale beginnings. A record deal with Dirty Hit and a couple of EPs later, she’s returned with her eagerly anticipated debut full-length Fake It Flowers, a collection of songs that expands the scope of her sound beyond the four walls of her childhood bedroom to fill the vast space of arenas everywhere. To put it simply, it rocks.
The album’s opening salvo is nothing short of spectacular, with hard-hitting guitar jams built from the playbooks of essential slacker rock acts such as Pavement and The Cranberries. Lead single “Care” is explosive, fizzling with energy just below the surface before bursting to life in its chorus like sonic fireworks as Kristi unleashes repressed feelings from past trauma. “Worth It” is a wholly authentic teenage confessional propelled by fuzzy guitar lines and forceful drumming that come crashing down in waves.
But Fake It Flowers is not a throwback record. Kristi infuses the grungy sound of her musical heroes with light, bedroom pop vocals to thrilling effect. In this new space, these opposing elements empower each other to create an atmosphere that seamlessly glides between delicate and powerful. The heavy melody of “Charlie Brown,” a song about overcoming self-harm, is sweetened by a soft vocal delivery in the song’s verses; the raging sound of the song’s chorus empowers Kristi’s voice to transform into a bloodcurdling scream.
This juxtaposition of soft and hard remains true even at the lyrical level. “Dye It Red” is particularly searing, a fearless expression of self-worth in the face of an abusive relationship. Kristi’s voice captures a tone that is both vulnerable and fierce as she rightfully demands consent; lines such as “Fuck me only when I’m keen/ Not according to your beer” are as memorable as they are striking.
When Fake It Flowers occasionally reaches back to Kristi’s bedroom pop roots, it doesn’t always succeed. The album’s most sentimental track, “Horen Sarrison,” is a tribute to Kristi’s boyfriend. While genuine, the song’s overly gushy lyrics — combined with an orchestral section that sweeps the song up into a state of heightened gratitude — feel over the top. Compared to the string section on “Sorry,” which compliments that song’s heightened drama appropriately, it feels forced.
And neither songs can help but pale in comparison to the authenticity of “How Was Your Day?” which sounds like a startlingly sweet and soothing voicemail left for a lover to hear when they return from work. These moments highlight the tender heart at the core of every song, but act more as relief from the album’s enthralling attack.
Though there’s room for improvement on the songwriting front, mostly, Kristi sounds like she’s having a whole lot of fun. The sounds of Fake It Flowers pay tribute to various genres of the ’90s in a way that honors the past while still feeling fresh. “Together” is pure punk rock that goes big with its straightforward approach, and although it doesn’t try anything revolutionary, it still manages to succeed. The closing track “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene,” titled after the names of Kristi’s future children, is playfully messy and hypnotic as it enters shoegaze territory with glee. Listening to the album is like hearing someone take you on a tour of their life through the music they love.
Fake It Flowers is Beabadoobee’s most polished, concentrated effort to date, a strong debut that carves a space at the forefront of popular music once again for guitar-driven slacker rock. If her debut is any indicator of future success, then there’s only more growth in store for Kristi. With some more refinement and experience under her belt, the stars truly are the limit.
Vincent Tran covers music. Contact him at [email protected].