Heart of the Artichoke
(Bayonet Records)
Add date: 6.11.2024
Release date: 6.7.2024

Apple Music
Bayonet Records

The way Bloomsday’s Iris James Garrison writes songs feels like somewhere between a mirror and a memory. Spacious, full-bodied folk songs, they are an ode to things that are good no matter how small; they sometimes feel like the ghost of a Mary Oliver poem. Bloomsday’s new record, Heart of the Artichoke, is a relic of unfettered creativity and community. They recount the miracles of the mundane, the memories that become sacred, an ode to all that is holy: nightswimming, songs plucked from the ether, the ways friendship can endure.

Heart of the Artichoke is Bloomsday’s second record, the follow-up to their 2022 debut Place to Land. Like earlier Bloomsday songs, the work here is threaded with warmth; it’s simmering, crisp and deeply human, an encapsulation of the present moment. Recorded across 10 days in June 2023 in upstate New York at duo Babehoven’s studio and co-produced by Babehoven’s Ryan Albert, with mixing by Henry Stoehr of Slow Pulp. The record was built out with a wide-ranging group of collaborators, including inventive drumming from Andrew Stevens (Lomelda, Hovvdy), Alex Harwood, Richard Orofino, Babehoven’s Maya Bon, Hannah Pruzinsky (h.pruz, Sister.), and Chris Daley. It was an insulated and collaborative experience: all family dinners on the back porch, bonfires, feeling a full sense of joy, of friendship, of purity in the artistic self.

Collaboration is an integral part of Bloomsday’s musical process. Garrison is malleable in the studio, their songwriting generous and spacious. But in listening to the record, there’s a sense that Garrison leaves room for the players, for the listener; for songs to find the shapes they’re meant to take. Garrison’s role as maestro is crucial, singular – it’s a collaborative, exploratory spirit harnessed by Garrison’s intuition, and by an honest commitment to carve out creative space for play, to delve into what’s known – or pushing past that, into unknown.

The album version of “Object Permanence,” for example, came together almost entirely during that session; it was originally a song Garrison didn’t like – too saccharine. But Orofino layered ideas atop Garrison’s foundation until it became something else. For Garrison, that’s the best part of collaboration: someone else finding the song when you can’t hear it, and leading you back to it. Coming away from making the album, Garrison felt fundamentally changed; Heart of the Artichoke is an encapsulation of the community Garrison has built, a two-way appreciation that speaks to Garrison’s ability to build a sound.

Opening track “Where I End and You Begin” has haunted Garrison for fifteen years; it’s built on remnants from the first song that Garrison ever wrote, technically – they took those chord progressions and ideas from their younger self and stretched it all out, finding new life, a sinewy guitar line. It’s how we meld the old with the new, the way we can look back and see the parts of ourselves that have always been there – even if we didn’t recognize them at the time.

Heart of the Artichoke is littered with odes to romance, platonic or otherwise. The lilting “Virtual Hug” is a love song for long distance best friends, written about a loved one’s experience. It’s been an exceptional moment in Bloomsday live sets, and tapped into a different part of Garrison’s songwriting practice, of seeing through someone else’s lens. “Writing this song was one where I was like, ‘Okay, this lives inside of me, but it’s not killing me to write it. It’s not unearthing something that it didn’t know before. It’s just a different point of view.’” It was composing the song from that perspective that opened them up sonically.

On “Artichoke,” Garrison peels back the layers, really seeing someone for who they are. Both “Bumper Sticker” and “Look After” feel spacious, driving love songs, while the minute instrumental intermission “Night Swim” is tactile, a sort of effervescent sheen, plunging into blue-green water. Garrison is a true-blue songwriter and their structured, earworm compositions have the tendency to get stuck in your head, sometimes reminiscent of the big alternative radio hits of the mid 90s, a la Joan Osborne. “Dollar Slice” is the sweeping centerpoint of the record – Garrison’s cavernous crescendoing vocals, the chaotic tapestry of New York the backdrop, a sort-of 2024-update of “One of Us.” “I'm not religious,” Garrison says, “But I am into the idea of mystical, higher power – whatever that means – and that power seeing me, and my bullshit, and calling it out. That’s kind of godly to me.”

“Carefully,” the quietest moment on the album, begins with a deep breath, a sigh, birds in the background, probing interiority. It’s a sparse track, and it feels like we are in the room with Garrison – it’s a bare, stripped-back song that lies its head on your shoulder, self-reflective and unadorned, ruminative and honest, recognizing the inner child without judgment. “The ghosts of the past still come up and haunt me,” Garrison says, “but I sit in what I have and see it. All of these songs are about loved ones, about personal struggles with getting out of my head and being present.” Heart of the Artichoke was written from a healed, matured place – written in a moment of safety from chaos. It’s a prayer for the present, an appreciation of tenderness and what happens once we give ourselves the space to really see, and really feel – becoming free and whole – an ode to the way healing allows us to bloom.


Get to know Bloomsday:

Bloomsday is the tender, cerebral project of the New York-based Iris James Garrison. Their debut record, Place to Land, was released in June 2022 on Bayonet Records, an album largely about transitioning and finding a home in their identity, body, and in other people. Later that year they also released the standalone single, "Jersey Soccer," via Hardly Art's 15th Anniversary Singles Series.

Since the project's inception in 2019, Bloomsday has toured the US extensively, including supporting Becca Mancari and Joe Vann, sets at Hopscotch Music Festival and SXSW, and playing with Courtney Barnett and Bonny Doon. Their music has been featured on NPR New Music Friday, Nylon, and Paste, among other publications. Bloomsday's new LP, Heart of the Artichoke, is out this June via Bayonet Records.