On “Emily Alone,” Florist embraces life’s messiness

Courtesy of Mlesprg via Instagram

 There aren’t too many moving parts to Florist’s latest album—it’s as clear-cut as its name, “Emily Alone,” suggests. The record was created exclusively by Florist band member Emily Sprague in her Los Angeles home. After a move from California to New York, a breakup and the death of her mother, Sprague embarked on a project that neither avoids nor lingers too deeply into the darkness of the unconscious. She stared directly into it, and found on the other side a lightfilled reflection of acceptance. 

  Sprague wrote every word, played every instrument and produced the entire album. This culminates in an introspective creation that sinks into the workings of a mind rediscovering what it means to be alone.

  Listening to “Emily Alone” feels like reading through journal entries. The lyrics, like on previous albums, are a whimsical stream-of-consciousness that are inquisitive and unexpected. Florist’s lyrics have always been playful one moment and deeply philosophical the next, but “Emily Alone” is a new variation on this approach, harboring an inner monologue that explores loneliness after loss. Florist albums have a way of making you laugh in a unique, nothing-really-matters type of way. It’s driving with the windows down, walking barefoot in the grass, freely shopping for shells at the beach. But there’s always a turn when Florist reminds us that our lives are built from these tiny moments. And on “Emily Alone,” it seems Sprague is trying to reconstruct herself in a way that lets life’s loose ends blow freely in the wind.

  The album is intensely intimate; it’s easy to imagine sitting in a room with Sprague, watching the music slowly unfold. The record passes softly, with Sprague’s voice sometimes at the forefront, and sometimes hidden, behind guitar strums and earthy sound.

  On opening track “As Alone,” Sprague begins musing about trying—and failing—to know herself: “I walk and I read, spend time in the sea/Nothing brings clarity to what makes me me.” Sprague’s hypnotic whisper builds through the song, paired only with light instrumentals. “And the beauty of unfolding/The life that is only/The living and the dying.” Lyrics such as these ring out as cries to think bigger and deeper about who we are and why we’re here. “

  “I Also Have Eyes,” the sullen and cloudy fourth track, follows the buoyant and weightless opening songs. The chords behind Sprague’s whisper are gloomier, and her voice loses exuberance. “How did I get into this place?/My life is only a combination of things/That I mostly have no control over/ And it took me a long time to figure that out,” Sprague sings. This unique transparency of Sprague’s mind is undoubtedly powerful and atmospheric. “Now it’s time to go inside your mind/Find the void and stare it down,” she sings in a melancholic ode. She’s attempting to reframe how we see ourselves and our lives. While loss and loneliness pervade the album, it is just as alluring as it as elusive.

  “Emily Alone” blurs within itself, each song falling into the other like dominoes. It oscillates like tides, balancing sinking into sadness with embracing life’s messiness. 

  The tide turns again on the seventh track, “M,” which layers the sounds of walking with loosely played piano. This song, with the lyrics explicitly handling the death of Sprague’s mother, is a delicate balancing act between sadness and composure. “Can I see heaven’s light/With a magic spell and candlelight?/I need someone to tell me yes/I believe in things we cannot see.” It’s refreshingly honest track that allows Sprague’s intensely private experiences to find universal truths. It’s the kind of song you can listen to over and over again and still find new meanings.

  “Now” follows, an airy take on being alone. It’s the moment of finding complete contentedness with solitude: “Where do you go/ When you just go alone?,” Sprague sings. Just like on “Still,” it feels as though you are peering into the artist’s mind, into her day-to-day travels through consciousness.

  On “Still,” Sprague is talking—mostly to herself, it seems—about death. “And to think tide speaks to the shore/Similarly to the way I speak to death,” Sprague sings. It is a moment of composure in an album that bears the weight of so much loss. The moments of lightness throughout the album are equally impactful as deeper musings on existence.

  Sprague ties her own self-acceptance to the earth on “Rain Song,” which features sparse lyrics that evoke impending rain. “Weight of moon/Are you full?/Hours now/Tide will go,” Sprague sings, as layered sounds behind her wispy voice mirror the longing for catharsis when the sky turns gray. Sprague’s songs envelop you in a kind of unseen meditation, a way of listening that rests within. 

  The second-to-last track on the album, “Shadow Bloom,” honors the stillness when you accept darkness and allow it to live inside of you. “So the rain comes back now/After I asked it to/You could not come back now/ Even if I asked you to,” Sprague sings. The line “Do you really want to know the thing/ You spend your life trying to find?” seems to drive the whole album: a longing to understand, but an acceptance that understanding may never come. The song envelops you in its sadness but opens the door for an entirely different way of looking at the world. It’s soft and quiet, but energetically itself.

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