Tomato Flower return with Construction, a new set of dense, knotted pop songs. The Baltimore-based quartet melds irresistible melodies with rhythmic trickery and unexpected structures, bending genre and palette at will; math rock, dub, and bossa might flash by within two minutes, and you still haven’t heard the outro. A song will invite you in with tones of classic pop music, only to freak out a moment later. Formal constraint becomes an opportunity for play and surprise; the pop song form becomes a psychedelic capsule.
Turning the band’s utopian impulse toward the worldly, Construction refers both to “constructedness,” processes of artifice and social construction, as well as the material activity of building. Yet for all their literary sensibility and taste for double meanings, Tomato Flower rejects ironic detachment. Feeling is always at the center of the songs, even when the feeling morphs and evades you.
Recorded in the same time frame as their debut, Gold Arc, much of the music came together in the peak days of COVID isolation in long days on the top floor of Austyn and Jamison’s rowhouse, overlooking old Baltimore architecture. The music itself evokes something sculptural; it alternately reflects the painstaking social processes of material transformation that create physical objects, or coalesces as a monumental abstraction cutting into the skyline.
The songs are intricate constructions of their own. A tight but jarring sense of form is central to the band’s boldly futuristic aesthetic. Drawing from contemporaries like Red Sea and Palm as well as older models like Stereolab and This Heat, Tomato Flower expands the rhythmic and harmonic palette of a rock band while maintaining the strictness of pop songwriting and its insistence on melody. Tomato Flower does not adorn their pop songs with experimentalism; they build freakiness into the form.