florist – if blue could be happiness

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note.  the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: florist.

It’s tempting to be swallowed whole by the outward fragility of florist; emily sprague’s frank musings are accompanied by sparse, quiet instrumentation, a potent combination whose resulting intimacy and vulnerability should not be downplayed.  however, the fragile depiction of florist belies the determination that ultimately resonates across the band’s work and sprague’s lyrics.  if blue could be happiness, florist’s sophomore full-length, is matter-of-fact in its delivery, its broad scope equally capable of mining both serenity and devastation.

if blue could be happiness is the logical sonic successor to florist’s debut, the birds outside sang.  both albums hinge on sprague’s stream of consciousness and her gentle, finger-picked acoustic guitar, while consonant synthesizers ebb and flow amidst swells of percussion and occasional flourishes of strings; if anything, blue seems to demonstrate more control over this quiet, restrained method of orchestration.  it’s a familiar palette, therapeutic in its presentation, a calming demeanor gently swaying in an eternal breeze.  but whereas birds examined the aftermath of a near-death experience, blue occasionally zooms in on the loss of a family member and the subsequent reverberations.  the exploration of mortality continues, with a subtle change of the lens.

Florist If Blue Could Bethough the unexpected passing of sprague’s mother certainly informs sizable swaths of blue, framing the album solely in terms of grief does a disservice to the multitude of emotions sprague is able to deftly sift through.  the centerpiece “glowing brightly” perhaps exhibits this intricacy best; the track turns on the aching line of “mom, i love you / i still hear your voice inside my sleep” but quickly segues into a more uplifting realm, the titular verb and adverb brushstrokes on a sprawling canvas of picturesque, natural beauty.  elsewhere, sprague ruminates on the simple wonders of love (“eyes in the sun”) and devotes “thank you light” to a color-filled, poignant examination of self.

of course, the color blue carries significance far beyond its titular placement, almost becoming a desired state of existence that sprague explores in various capacities across the album.  on “understanding light” she wonders “why can’t i find a place to hide from the darkness? / i want to live in the blueness,” the hue becoming a more vibrant middle ground in between, or maybe an alternative to, the simple dichotomy of light and dark. on “what i wanted to hold,” a loving violet is slowly sun-bleached blue; later, a pale iteration is conflated with general well-being.

by the time sprague repeats the title track’s hypnotic, swaying mantra, if blue could be happiness has already graduated into a class with few other peers.  largely devoid of typical verse-chorus structures, blue feels squarely like an album reserved for intimate, introspective personal journeys, perhaps in bucolic surroundings.  it’s an album adorned with gorgeous snapshots of life, love, loss, friendship, and permutations of their various intersections; perhaps just as critically, blue also takes pointed pitstops to marvel at the myriad wonders of nature, a gentle reminder that while life is fleeting, beauty is omnipresent.

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