[Dirty Hit; 2020]

Bea Kristi has been displaying different sides of herself through her music for a few years. Since arriving with debut single “Coffee” in 2017 – given legs this year through being interpolated by Canadian rapper Powfu on “Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)”, which blew up on TikTok – the Philippines-born, London-based 20-year-old otherwise known as Beatrice Laus, or via the knowingly clumsy moniker of beabadoobee, has developed her sound considerably, charting out her progression over four EPs.

The most recent of these, last October’s Space Cadet, felt like a natural next step into more muscular territory, its sub-20-minute length offering listeners a glimpse into what she might do next, and its grunge-tinged melodic sprawl is indeed deemed worthy of further exploration on Fake It Flowers, her debut album.

Kicking things off with the bubblegum scuzz of “Care,” Kristi announces her intentions to seize the spotlight while denouncing false friends with no-nonsense scorn. “I don’t want your sympathy / I guess I’ve had it rough / but you don’t really care!” she declares as the song surges into the first of the album’s many earworm choruses.

Glancing at the tracklist, there are no crutches provided in the form of reworked older material, with Kristi putting her faith entirely in the new stuff. Some of it calls back to those early EPs; the economy of Lice is reflected in the brevity of “Back to Mars”, and “Further Away” sounds like it could have slotted in on last year’s Loveworm, but with the album’s heightened production value ensures they eclipse them in terms of ambition.

Even when at her most vulnerable, beabadoobee displays admirable spirit in both composition and execution. “Charlie Brown” plumbs dark depths, dripping catharsis as Kristi lays bare her struggles with self-harm, replete with a scream-along hook. “Emo Song” is a disarmingly pretty kiss-off to an ex that perfectly captures the confusion that comes with simultaneously missing someone and being glad they’re gone, with its hazy atmosphere and yearning vocals.

Elsewhere on the record, Kristi’s sound is given room to develop further; “Horen Sarrison”, its title a spoonerised nod to her boyfriend, is a big-hearted love song that stretches to a generous five-and-a-half minutes, buoyed by sumptuous string arrangements that stand in stark contrast to the crunchy sound of the likes of “Worth It” and penultimate track “Together”. “Sorry”, meanwhile, tugs at the heartstrings as she addresses old friends after coming out the other side of a turbulent childhood and imagines them taking her place. One of the album’s most poignant moments, it’s set to music that’s often as bruising as its lyrical content, oscillating between calm and chaos.

Closing track “Yoshimi Forest Magdalene” finds Kristi immersing herself fully in noise pop – a plugged-in and amped-up finale whose untethered intensity allows to conclude her debut album with a flourish. She’s further away from the barebones approach of the song that started it all than she’s ever been; here, the pared-back songs are self-assured, and the full-throttle ones display how far she’s come in just a few years. Throughout, her exquisite knack for melody is on show every bit as clearly as the emotion poured into these 12 songs. Taken all together, Fake It Flowers is a resoundingly confident and addictive debut from someone who sounds like she’s ready to take on the world. You’d do well to remember the name.

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