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Florist Review

by Marcy Donelson

In 2018, Emily Sprague was newly based in Los Angeles, far from bandmates, when she recorded Florist's third album, the grieving Emily Alone. By the time it was eventually released in the middle of 2019, Sprague had moved back to New York, reunited with bandmates Jonnie Baker, Rick Spataro, and Felix Walworth, and rented a house in the Hudson Valley to record Florist's next endeavor. Tracked mostly on the property's screened-in front porch, the resulting Florist LP is an intimate, communal, often improvisatory, borderline environmental album that, with its ten songs and nine instrumentals, transcends form, notions of authenticity, and expectation. Sparse and quiet throughout its nearly hour-long playing time, it begins with "June 9th Nighttime," an instrumental mix of woozy lap steel, structured bass, warped synths, sporadic vibrating snare, and constant crickets. That leads into the acoustic guitar-anchored song "Red Bird, Pt. 2 (Morning)," which also combines acoustic, electronic, and natural sounds. It introduces Sprague's tender, wispy vocals, which rarely rise above a half-whisper throughout the album, in tandem with poetic meditations like the opening lines: "There is a winter morning/You didn’t know me yet/It probably was snowing/I wonder what was said/Of the days quickly going to what will come ahead/I don’t know if I can ever love someone like that" -- which imagine her own birth. The album doesn't get any less poignant from there, even on the (gently) driving, full-band, partly amplified "Spring in Hours" ("You are the kind of person/That comes from the flower’s center/You landed in this dimension/There’s love in all your senses"), which features Baker's intermittent, atmospheric saxophone, or "43," a song that includes meter changes and a prolonged electric guitar solo as well as blurry, multi-tracked vocals issuing evocative lyrics like "We had a home once/There were fireflies." The spacy, swirly, nearly seven-minute "Sci-Fi Silence" combines strummed acoustic guitar, piano, analog synths, and eventually drums and multiple singers as it repeats "You’re not what I have but what I love." In between songs are equally brittle and beautiful instrumentals of shifting instrumentation, culminating in the final track, "Jonnie on the Porch," which features saxophone and synths -- that are sometimes hard to tell apart -- and drone. With all the bandmembers credited on synths and three on guitars, it's never really obvious who is playing what here, but it doesn't seem to matter on an album so moving, immersive and mysterious, organic and otherworldly. Sprague and her bandmates hanging out on a porch upstate managed to make a record that delivers simple songs, artful sound exploration, deep emotions, and comfort all at once.

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