Golden Bloom began as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Shawn Fogel, who played every part on 2009’s debut full length Fan the Flames and 2011’s March to the Drums EP. During this time, he earned the attention of tastemakers like SPIN, Magnet, and Daytrotter. After years of touring with a band, however, he found that songs had evolved beyond their studio versions, and the musicians he had surrounded himself with added new depth and dimension to the music. On 2013’s No Day Like Today EP, live band members Josh Cohen, Jeff Patlingrao, and Justin Hofmann joined Fogel to hone a new batch of catchy, thoughtful songs, recording for the first time as a full band.
Golden Bloom’s evolution continues to unfold in lush melodies on their new record, Searching for Sunlight. The lyrics deal both gracefully and bluntly with hard truths. The music, however, is uplifting and memorable, built around layered arrangements and unpredictable chord progressions.
In June of 2013, Cohen and Patlingrao joined Fogel at a cabin in Maine to begin writing new songs. Although their previous release, No Day Like Today, was arranged and recorded as a band, this record would be a collaborative effort from the very start. Patlingrao had informed the band that he would be shifting his focus to his solo project, Orca Age, but they all agreed he should help write the new album even if he wouldn’t be playing on it. After a week of creative isolation they had the bare bones of the songs that would become Searching for Sunlight.
“Golden Bloom had always worked with outside producers and recording engineers in the past,” says Fogel, “but this time we decided to do it all ourselves. Josh had been building his studio for the past few years, and had recorded and produced several albums for other artists [Kayln Rock, Eva Walsh]. We knew it would take a little longer but we were up for the challenge.” Searching for Sunlight did take longer to write and record than they hoped, but in the process, they discovered a better album than the one they initially set out to make.
In “Books You Never Read,” Fogel sings “Fall back on what you know,” even though Searching for Sunlight does just the opposite both sonically and lyrically. “Looking Up To You” begins with a single finger-picked acoustic guitar and builds to joyful explosion of sound. “Circles Round My Mind” jangles with nostalgia like a lost love letter from Alex Chilton. “Great Unknown” launches with pounding drums and jagged guitars, shaking the listener free of any notion that Golden Bloom has a singular sound. “Fall Out Of Line” explores new sonic territory with banjo, baritone guitar, and lap steel. The title track’s sparse acoustic arrangement sounds just as it does when the band performs live, stepping off the stage and away from the mics to lead the crowd in a sing-along. “Come Back Home” sparkles with the pop sensibility of The Cure, accented with toy piano, synthesizers, and angular guitar parts. On “Want Love,” Fogel’s vocals are straightforward and prophetic: the verse’s sparse, single note guitar parts contrast with the sweet, rich choruses, made moreso by guest backing vocals from Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz. Fogel responds to his earlier lyric from “Books You Never Read,” with, “Is this a version of yourself you recognize?” In Searching for Sunlight, fans will recognize a more mature, refined Golden Bloom.
If their previous records were stars, Searching for Sunlight is a supernova: the melodies are memorable and hold up beautifully on repeat, the vocals are also sweeter and more refined; the lyrics speak to a deeper sense of self and understanding; and the talented group of musicians paint colorful tapestries with small, unexpected flourishes and tasteful moments of revelation.