Words by Jam Pascual

This is the sound. This is the sound you find in the greatest teen dramas of our time, the sound of a decisive kiss in the rain, the sound of ETC 2nd Avenue commercials in the middle of a dry afternoon. This is the sound that clouds the head while a boring teacher’s lecture recedes and the clock is five seconds to the glorious bell ring of dismissal, and a heart that feels too much for its own good goes into the world because it must.

Critically, the general understanding is that Beabadeoobee’s debut album Fake It Flowers evokes these very specific ’90s and early aughts energies. Filipino-born British songwriter Bea Kristi Laus was earning her stripes in her previous EPs, Patched Up in 2018 and Loveworm in 2019, and while those records wielded the tender lyricism and effortless melodic sense that characterizes Laus’s artistry, her penchant for channelling ’90s alternative rock revealed themselves in small pieces, like in the songs “If You Want To” and “Disappear.”

But Fake It Flowers blows it all out of the water with “Care,” a muscular opening track that brings great songwriting back to the basics of big chords and the kind of strumming you gotta put your back into. “I don’t want your sympathy / Stop saying you give a shit / ‘Cause you don’t really / Care, care, care, yeah” is a helluva hook, and shows Beabadeoobee handling themes of bitterness and resentment with enlivening confidence. That’s something you also hear in “Worth It,” where her pinched falsetto ignites a chorus that crashes headlong. Give “Dye It Red” the passage of time and it’ll be an alt rock gold standard classic. Laus has a knack for letting the energy of her song’s steadily climb to the chorus’s peak and sustaining that momentum throughout, and when she goes “Now that I had some time to think I’ve had to put up with your shit / When you’re not even that cute / that cute, that cute, that cute,” in the outro, it’s fireworks in the sky.

Compared to previous releases, Fake It Flowers boasts refined songwriting and incredibly strong rock-focused production. It’s for these reasons as well, aside from the subtle genre sensibilities that make aughts pop rock so cinematic and personal, that the record might call to mind the likes of Avril Lavigne, Liz Phair, Michelle Branch, and Mazzy Star. She has also counted Smashing Pumpkins as an influence, which is evident. (Let’s count Kitchie Nadal in Beabadoobee’s sonic lineage as well, because why not?)

Consider Beabadoobee another master crafter in this ongoing alt rock revival movement, spurred by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy. But to classify this record as mere stylistic derivation, or a product that banks on rose-colored nostalgia, would be a mistake. Fake It Flowers is a rewarding experience for reasons beyond genre—the album itself is an excellently paced trip of well-placed bangers and ballads, and there’s something satisfying about the way Laus integrates cusses into her lyricism, cheeky with a tinge of venom.

The record ends with the mystifying “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene,” a cut reminiscent of Chad VanGaalen’s work circa Diaper Island, where guitars sound just a tad tinny and raw, and production takes a step back to let noise really do its thing unfettered. Kristi chants the names that she wants for her future children, like a hybrid of an incantation and frenzied bleacher cheers, while everything else clangs behind her. It’s kind of the odd track out in the release, one where Beabadoobee lets herself get a little weird lyrically and arrangement-wise, and it pays off, perfectly capping off a record that tells honestly the stories of youth, misguided love, and closure. Really wish this came out in the time I still had an iPod.