Becca Stevens: Wonderbloom
Becca Stevens has a style that’s equal parts jazz, pop, funk and classical music, with a few electronic dance beats thrown in for good measure. She co-produced and co-engineered Wonderbloom with Grammy winner Nic Hard (The Church, Snarky Puppy). The murky, industrial sound offsets the breathy vocals Stevens uses to portray feelings of futility, anguish, rage and self-destructive passion. Her lyrics paint a bleak picture of love and its discontents—emotions driven home by a wash of distorted instruments and synthesizer textures that often blend together into a single sound. Wonderbloom took six months to record and Stevens tapped the talents of more than 40 musicians and other collaborators, including borrowing from Shakespeare. Her setting for “True Minds (Sonnet 116)” is one of the album’s highlights. She rearranges the familiar words, dropping fervid vocal improvisations onto a track that includes thumping bass, ghostly harmonies and brittle guitar fills, floating on top of a disjointed hip-hop rhythm. “Halfway” and “Response to Criticism” describe infidelity from the perspective of a woman who should know better, but plunges headlong into a relationship that she knows will only cause her pain and suffering. At points, Stevens plays a charango, using the instrument’s high-pitched sound to sprinkle a little lightness into sinister tracks heavy on bass and sustained synthesizer chords. Elsewhere, Stevens gets into a playful R&B groove on “I Wish” and “Slow Burn,” funky tunes with cheery percussion tracks to counter lyrics full of despair. The album closer “Heather’s Letter to Her Mother” takes a realistic look at Trump’s America with a refrain that promises to fight back against racial and economic injustice.