Florist & Emily Sprague

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The Birds Outside Sang (2016), 6.5/10
If Blue Could Be Happiness (2017), 7/10
Emily Alone (2019), 6/10
Florist (2022), 5.5/10
Emily Sprague:
Water Memory (2017), 5/10
Mount Vision (2018), 5/10
Full/New (2019), 6.5/10
Hill Flower Fog (2020), 5/10

New York's Florist, consisting of vocalist Emily Sprague, drummer Felix Walworth, bassist Rick Spataro and guitarist Jonnie Baker, crafted the fragile and confessional bedroom-folk of The Birds Outside Sang (2016), with Sprague approaching the songs (mostly two-minute miniatures) with the dejected overtones of Nick Drake. In elegies like Dark Light it sounds like she's crying, and in Rings Grow it sounds like she's dying, and in Dust Inside the Light it sounds like she's serenely insane. 1914 is a choral song but it sounds like a group of mourners reciting a rosary. Not everything is bleak: there's the gently jangling I Was, a sort of lifeless nursery rhyme titled A Hospital + Crucifix Made of Plastic and especially the stately, organ-driven The Birds Outside Sang that feels like a church hymn. The band is so quiet that one hardly realizes that there are also instruments backing her vocals. The exception is White Light Doorway, which is almost hard-rock by their standards.

The songs are a tiny bit more muscular and longer on If Blue Could Be Happiness (2017). Melodies are also much more effective and rousing, especially in the country elegy What I Wanted to Hold and the folkish lullaby Understanding Light, sometimes echoing mellow singer-songwriters of the 1970s like John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot. Blue Mountain Road has the graceful and quasi-religious quality of a madrigal. That quasi religious element also shows in Thank You Light, albeit in a dreamy context. She's waxing romantic in Eyes in the Sun and almost a 1960s ye-ye girl in Glowing Brightly. She spends a whopping five minutes shaking the delicate filigree of If Blue Could Be Happiness, a slocore ballad drenched with psychedelic sounds. Sprague is at the peak of her melodic inspiration. Rarely has vulnerability sounded so charming.

Sprague, who had already recorded at home the seven-song EP The Last Days of Summer (2012) and other tapes, turned to electronic ambient music on Water Memory (2017). The album contains Lake (13:24), a vast expanse of crystal sparkling tones, but the rest sounds amateurish. Mount Vision (2018) contains 12 instrumentals for piano (notably Piano 1) or synth (notably Synth 2). Mostly they are rudimentary. The split album Full/New (2019) contains her 41-minute New, a more interesting, if bloated, attempt at a post-minimalist and post-cosmic electronic fantasia.

Sprague moved to Los Angeles and recorded by herself Emily Alone (2019), nonetheless credited to Florist. Ironically, now that she's alone Sprague makes the accompanying instrument (the guitar) more prominent and her singing sounds more vibrant, like the adult counterpart to the Sprague of the first two albums, who evoked a teenager alone in her bedroom. As Alone, and especially the dreamy Ocean Arms and the delicate Time Is a Dark Feeling but to the same introverted person but she has become more eloquent. Celebration, which is initially recited, and Rain, which is mostly just trance, are the songs that most closely recall the early traumas. The album is probably six songs too long.

Sprague also recorded a new electronic album, Hill Flower Fog (2020), another mediocre collection of new-age fantasias.

Sprague reunited with the rest of the band for Florist (2022), a 19-song album which mixes unusually long folk songs (the Simon & Garfunkel-esque Red Bird Pt 2, the jazzy Laura Nyro-esque Spring in Hours, the almost orchestral River's Bed) with surrealistic interludes (June 9th Nighttime, Jonnie on the Porch). The country-esque Two Ways and the martial singalong Organ's Drone are humbler and closer to the spirit of the early albums. Sci-fi Silence, the longest song, and the mildly dissonant Dandelion are the only ones that offers a fusion of the two elements, the ambient and the folk. The louder Feathers is Florist's stab at mainstream folk-rock. The album is probably ten songs too long.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )