REVIEW: Florist - The Birds Outside Sang

Raquel Dalarossa

Florist’s sound is, in a word, picturesque. Their debut full-length release, The Birds Outside Sang, is almost too aptly named; truly, listening to it invokes a sensation very similar to one felt listening to the gentle chirping of birds, bristling of leaves, and flowing of water. It feels meditative and tender, and it ends up being the perfect cushion to singer Emily Sprague’s candid reflections on loss, pain, and death.

As the story behind this album goes, Sprague made the move to Brooklyn from her small-town home near the Catskill Mountains in early 2014 and was promptly hit by a car while riding her bike. It was an ugly accident which left her in the hospital and rehab for some time, and subsequently that became her time spent writing and even recording some of the eleven songs included here (though they were later fleshed out with the help of her bandmates). The album presents the songs in chronological order, essentially walking us through Sprague’s process as she healed both physically and emotionally.

Consequently, the opening track, “Dark Light,” feels a bit like an outlier when compared to the album’s generally wide-open, scenic feel; it’s reclusive, almost stifling in its opaque fuzziness. Sprague’s vocals come in small, echoing just enough to hint at an empty space around her. It's a good example of Florist’s true strengths: conveying a breadth of emotion and establishing vivid context through a carefully-refined, minimalistic approach.

Though the songs open up as you move along the track list, they all share that same sparse but thoughtful construction, supporting Sprague’s warm vocals with soft synths, keyboards, and guitar. Her intimate prose is the focal point as she attempts to “get back what [she] lost,” baring the realities of her physical recuperation—“I can’t feel my left side hand / God I hope it comes back to me again” (“Dark Light”)—as well as her existential daze—“I don’t know why I survived / I guess it’s just because I survived” (“Only a Prayer Nothing More”). 

Some tracks have a particularly DIY sound to them, like “Dust Inside the Light,” which finds Sprague at her most vulnerable; we hear her breath catch at one point and she takes a long pause, apparently struggling to continue. Her voice is close, nestling right into our ears, making it feel like we can (and want to) just reach out and hug her. There’s a distinct intentionality within these songs, which makes sense in light of the fact that Sprague self-recorded and self-produced it. 

Ultimately, the overall effect of The Birds Outside Sang is that it feels like an offering, or an invitation, and Sprague’s honesty makes it almost impossible not to accept it. This is most plainly felt with the title track, in which she very simply asks, “Do you and your friends want to come into the field and watch the fireworks shoot into the air?” The answer, of course, is yes!