Though she worked with a different engineer/co-producer in Erik Wofford (Adam Torres, She Sir), Molly Burch returns a year after 2017's Please Be Mine with more of the debut's yearning, highly stylized vintage pop on First Flower. The album also welcomes back key collaborators including lead guitarist/co-producer Dailey Toliver and Please Be Mine producer Dan Duszynski, who plays on the title track. What has changed between albums is that Burch opens up a little here, offering more personal reflection on a record dedicated, per the liner notes, to "anyone who has ever experienced anxiety or self-doubt." Despite those thematic implications, First Flower opens with the coquettish "Candy," which compliments an object of affection ("Why do I like how you look/You look like candy") while insisting that they stay away ("It's hard to stand now/Don't touch my hand now"). Emphatic, unprocessed guitar tones à la surf rock and country noir reinforce her insistence, as do airy vocal harmonies and echo. Most of the rest of the album continues in kind in terms of its discontented tone and (charmingly) pouty affectation, though lyrics quickly turn inward on tracks like the self-doubting "Dangerous Place," "Wild," which regrets being so guarded, and the generally ruminative, anxious relationship songs that make up most of the rest of the track list. It's still a sultry, playful set, with spontaneous-feeling, simpatico guitar that seems to duet with Burch on songs including "Dangerous Place" and "Without You." Warmly melodic throughout, she channels her inner Patsy Cline on the spare closer, "Every Little Thing." That song leaves things on a decidedly more plaintive note, imparting hard-won wisdom like "Sometimes it is hard to live/That is why we must forgive." Taken together, the record's simple ballroom dance rhythms, memorable melodies, and nuanced performances are a recipe for pop confection, however unhappy.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson