Florist - Emily Alone - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Florist - Emily Alone

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-07-26
Florist - Emily Alone
Florist - Emily Alone

Florist has picked up substantial buzz since their conception, but they’ve received newfound attention thanks in part to the use of an instrumental portion of "Thank You" being featured in Beyoncé’s Netflix concert documentary Homecoming. With their highly anticipated follow up to 2017’s If Blue Could Be Happiness, the band has opted for a more sparse sound, steering their aesthetic direction toward post-Big Thief open-veined, hard-hitting folk tunes. Written, recorded, and produced by vocalist and songwriter Emily Sprague while she was holed up in her Los Angeles home last autumn, Emily Alone (as its name would suggest) finds Sprague stepping out on her own, exposing her inward reflections without the comforts of her collaborators. 

The intimate record begins with the tender, acoustic fingerpicking of “As Alone,” as Sprague slowly slips into the bittersweet journey toward acceptance. The self-examination is reflected in the album’s production, from the deep and painful introspection in the self-harmonizing of tracks like “I Also Have Eyes” and “Today I’ll Have You Around” to the off-kilter, minimalist exploration of “Moon Begins.” Plucky, fluttering numbers like “Ocean Arms” truly maximize the impact of Sprague’s airy, effortless delivery. Through these tracks, we bear witness to Sprague learning to cope with her own harsh circumstances, be it a cross-country move, the demise of a long-term romance, or the death of her mother. 

Emily Alone favors its barebones structure, but not to the point where it sacrifices sonic diversity. Sprague sets an expectation early on with folky daydreams, and then proceeds to break it as she drifts through such varied landscapes as swirling, unexpectedly hopeful “Time is a Dark Feeling,” piano lounge ballad “M,” and sprightly, electrified “Now.” The album has an absorbing quality that washes over the listener, demanding active listening on tracks like drifting, faded “Shadow Boom” and hypnotic, mesmerizing “Rain Song.” Just when you’re tempted to label the record as “indie” or “folk-rock” or “singer-songwriter,” it finds new and expressive ways to avoid easy categorization.  

Working to separate the record from Florist’s full-band releases, Sprague peppers in signature touches in order to really make the album her own. Breaking the fourth wall, she uses “Celebration” and “Still” to eschew the typical melodic structure by leaning on dreamy, stream of consciousness spoken word poetry. As she returns to her roots, Sprague finds solace in the sounds of nature, filling Emily Alone with an earthy texture, as with the bird sounds on “Celebration,” the crunching of gravel underfoot on “M,” and the rush of water on “Today I’ll Have You Around.” 

The title Emily Alone isn’t simply apt in its description of a solo effort; the record is shrouded in a cloud of isolation. Sprague went through some of life’s loneliest landmarks, and we can hear both the pain and reconciliation in her voice as she sifts through the broken pieces. But it’s in that detachment that she was able to come into her own. There are moments of enveloping beauty to be found on Emily Alone, enough to build an argument for Sprague as one of the most formidable voices in indie rock today. And it’s only the beginning of her journey.

Comments (1)

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I just found the song M, and was blown away by it. Read your review and now I am so psyched to listen. I have always liked Florist, but this seems like a profound, uncharted direction

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