Go on any up-and-coming indie group’s Bandcamp and you’ll find the same story: a collection of songs by artists who dream of making it, burdened by independence and a lacking audience, swept up in their defining sound. More often than not, these bands are able to capture a definitive style that does feel unique to them, but rarely are they able to capitalize on the benefits that come with releasing an album. An album yields the opportunity to take that defining sound and explore it, experimenting along the way and taking chances that can’t be afforded when your primary audience is only consuming singles.
For a lot of these bands, they’ve spent the majority of their musical careers perfecting what needs to be found in a single, an act that’s understandably easy to get used to. But when it comes time to release their full-length debut, they’re seemingly bogged down in this singles mindset, unable to get unstuck. For Florist, the New York four-piece collection led by singer and composer Emily Sprague, the Bandcamp plague takes the form of lo-fi bedroom rock with no discernible willpower to get out of bed. The idea of recording simplistic pop-rock songs through a fuzzy and isolated filter isn’t necessarily newfound. A couple years ago Alex G gained notoriety for it, and Julia Brown’s An Abundance of Strawberries is slowly creeping onto the indie scene because of it. But despite mimicking the same sound as these two small-scale success stories, Florist’s The Birds Outside Sang feels destined to be forgotten.
Sprague attempts to use her quiet and quaint instrumentation and singing style to juxtapose her lyrical content, which the band no doubts agrees is poignant to the point of devastation. But unlike artists who’ve successfully used this mantra to create a layered wave of emotional subtleties, Florist’s discussion on the mundaneness of life succumbs to its own self-imposed monotony. This isn’t to say they’re never able to find profoundness. On the contrary, “A Hospital + Crucifix Made of Plastic” utilizes the same sort of imagery and referential techniques that made Girlpool’s Before the World Was Big so personal and earnest. It’s hard to hear Sprague warble on about being on a magazine or your favorite TV show and not be reminded of Cleo Tucker’s exclamatory “put me on a food stamp and a Hallmark card”. These are the kind of tranquilizing commonalities that can make the bedroom-style music so charmingly acute, something that Florist holds onto more often than not, though not without the occasional slip-up.
Thematically, The Birds Outside Sang delves heavily into those tiny worries that build up at night and culminate into full-fledged anxiety leading to sleepless nights. Emily Sprague is someone who laments her fears, pinpointing them across seemingly randomized topics that help parallel her scatterbrained franticness. She has an unwavering transfixion on subjects like survivor’s guilt and falling numb to the most basic of human feelings, so much so it feels borderline morbidly obsessive by the album’s conclusion.
This obsessive quality is certainly an admirable one, but it ends up being the undesired pitfall of the album. Like many Bandcamp artists, Florist suffers from an understandable inability to create a cohesive album completely unshaken by a central focus on singles. With two songs whose track lengths pass the four-minute mark, and the rest clocking-in comfortably close to about two minutes, it’s difficult to see the album as not consisting of a large amount of filler. But in spite of its abundant flaws, The Birds Outside Sang is restlessly driven to be more than the standard brand of mediocrity that Bandcamp acts are so accustomed to being. With a debut that provides glimpses of hope, it’s more than possible Florist’s follow-up will be the breakthrough project that gets them out of the bedroom and puts them into the limelight.
– Zach W.