The route to the release of a debut album for beabadoobee has been an interesting one, perhaps not what she could have possibly expected, but here we are. A series of EPs that felt as home-made and do-it-yourself as their creation actually was laid a path ahead for an artist blending 90s grunge influences with a distinctively noughties pop rock sound, sticking with a simple Low-Fi sound throughout. Then the first song she ever wrote and released, the delicate ‘Coffee’, is nabbed as a sample and inexplicably becomes one of the big ‘TikTok hits’ of the last 12 months.
Suddenly, beabadoobee goes from indie up-and-comer to having a top-10 hit and scoring more Spotify streams per month than her label mates The 1975. Fake It Flowers was bound to arrive with hefty expectations and thankfully she’s lost none of that home-made charm that made her such an interesting breakthrough act.
If there’s one thing that you instantly hear on this record, on opener ‘Care’, it’s the huge step up in how expensive and polished everything sounds. This isn’t just bedroom rock anymore; this is arena indie-pop. The way that the drums slam down and drop out on the hook is instantly infectious to the point of slight irritation, entirely the point of the sort of slacker rock beabadoobee is going for here.
The step up in production is heard across every track here. I saw her supporting The 1975 in an arena earlier in the year (an actual gig in 2020, I know…) and even from those songs and performances that were swallowed by the venue to the ones here, beabadoobee has really leaned into making arena worthy anthems. It’s not to say this is a pop record, far from it, but everything is instantly more accessible.
Her laid back nonchalant attitude on songs like ‘Sorry’, ‘Worth It’ and ‘Charlie Brown’ will surely be the deciding factor for anyone wondering if they’ll enjoy this. It’s hard to think of any album that’s sounded like this over the last few years, so obviously rooted in early noughties ‘I’m barely bothered to be here’ indie pop that it almost feels like a rare album of that era that’s been buried on someone’s iPod.
‘Charlie Brown’ especially has tonnes of aggression in the guitars and energy, but still the main vocal in the mix is almost like the first take before she properly goes for it on the main one. It’s divisive and is sure to turn off some listeners, but for me it creates this enigmatic feel to every moment here.
The times where things are more delicate, on songs like ‘Emo Song’ or ‘How Was Your Day?’ the home-made feel shines through the best. The latter especially is entirely acoustic and mixed in a way that makes it sound like you’re listening through a voice-note of an old VHS or something, like the feed is about to cut out at any moment. This feeling of things being right on the edge, that her vocals or the production could fall apart at any point, is one of the things I really enjoyed on Fake It Flowers. Then it all does fall apart on ‘Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene’ to close out the record.
This sense of beabadoobee’s identity as an artist, heard on all 40 minutes of the album is buried in the lyrics. Nothing really jumps out here, which does make it sound even more like you’ve heard it all before. Fake It Flowers is unlike anything I’ve heard released in 2020, but sounds like I’ve heard every one of these songs countless times before.
It’s not reductive, but it’s hardly revolutionary.
Words by Sam Atkins