There is transformative power coursing through the 12 songs on Emily Alone, the new album from indie-folk project Florist. It’s not loud or showy or self-serving or generous. It’s just there, simple and plainspoken, waiting to be engaged and willing to move through anyone who needs it.
Presumably, that’s what happened to Emily Sprague, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter named in the album’s title. Last winter, she wrote and recorded Emily Alone during a period of isolation and personal reflection spurred by the unexpected death of her mother and a move across the country, away from her collaborators in Florist (the band’s home base is still listed as New York on their Bandcamp).
Two years ago, Florist released an album called If Blue Could Be Happiness, wherein Sprague’s delicate songs about memories, mourning, color and light were modestly buttressed with gentle percussion and softly glowing synths. The results were disarmingly beautiful and moving.
On Emily Alone, Sprague strips down her songs to their barest elements, leaving only her voice, words and plucked acoustic guitar (plus an occasional exception) to carry the message. What’s left is not just bedroom-recorded confessional music, but pure introspection, confusion, revelation and emotion rubbed raw and exposed to the world. These songs are not sad so much as they channel the ebbs and flows of life lived inside a human brain with startling accuracy.
“I write and I read / I spend time in the sea, but nothing brings clarity to what makes me me,” Sprague sings in “As Alone,” the album’s wistful opener. She knows enough, though, to comfort herself from the second-person point of view later in the song: “Emily, just know that you’re not as alone as you feel in the dark,” she sings over and over as her guitar seesaws back and forth between two chords. It’s a conversation that will resonate with anyone who has ever wrestled with their place in this world.
Generally speaking, the songs on Emily Alone sound similar to one another. But listen closely and you’ll find their subtle differences. There are tracks that are more melodic, such as “Moon Begins,” with its hypnotic finger-picking and airy chorus about death and love, and “Now,” which pairs the album’s catchiest melody with a more traditional-sounding folk-guitar pattern. On “Ocean Arms,” Sprague hangs the faint drone of a synthesizer behind her whispered, bewildered vocals: “Why do I feel so happy when I stare at the ocean?” she sings, her voice cracking in places. “Then devastated when I stare at the ocean?”
There are also songs that—thanks to repeated tones and uncomplicated melodic ideas—take on more of a meditative feel. Backed by a simple chord progression, “I Also Have Eyes” finds Sprague at times employing a linear narrative style, even encouraging herself to “go outside the house, say hello to someone, look at their eyes.” For most of its three-and-a-half minutes, one root note anchors “Rain Song,” a hymn to the natural world that fades away like the black of night at dawn. And two of Emily Alone’s best songs—“Time Is A Dark Feeling” and “Today I’ll Have You Around”—showcase one of Sprague’s unique specialties: She writes songs that hover entrancingly, enticing the listener not with tractor-beam beats or huge hooks, but with a persistent and wholehearted interest in reaching your heart and speaking to it in a way that only it can understand.
Does this all sound like something that would appeal to everyone at all times? Probably not. Perhaps you have to be in the right place—emotionally, spiritually, spatially or whatever—for Emily Alone to impact you fully. But if you’re there, you’ll feel it. And if you’re not there, that’s OK. When you’re ready, Florist will be there waiting for you.