by Erin Bensinger (@_babybluet)
Florist’s 2019 return comes in the form of an introspective, stripped-back solo record by songwriter Emily Sprague on Double Double Whammy. As a full band, their music is beloved for its twinkling, delicate sound and its brutally vulnerable lyrical content, which centers above all things on queer existential loneliness. In that regard, Emily Alone is a Florist record through and through, despite being a solo effort. It’s also something more: it’s like a refined, evolved iteration of Sprague’s prior work, feeling more like a memoir than a diary entry. That sense of evolution comes through in the high production quality and a lyrical grounding in the present rather than in memory.
As the title suggests, the songwriting on the album is the work of Emily alone; each track features nothing more than her delicate voice and words, a precise and familiar acoustic guitar, and the subtle sound of a tape deck rolling. Loneliness does double duty on the record. It functions as the circumstances under which the music was written, and it also comprises much of the lyrical content.
The opening track, “As Alone,” features the titular refrain, presumably sung by Sprague to her past and future self:
Emily, just know / that you’re not as alone / as you feel in the dark / as you feel in the dark
Sprague’s voice is slightly staggered in layers over this line, giving the listener the sense that the reminder is coming from something of an internal chorus of voices. The composition is bare, backing the vocals with a simple yet emotive acoustic guitar.
The album’s second single, “Time is a Dark Feeling,” encapsulates the feeling of the whole record: beautiful, contemplative, and ultimately dark. It features a fuller guitar backing than many of the record’s other tracks, a warm and nostalgic flow of arpeggios that create the perfect backdrop for Sprague’s metaphysical musings about the construction of time. Appropriately, she juxtaposes the unnatural with nature, desperate for something real to ground her in a world dictated by clocks ticking meaninglessly:
Oak tree remember me / Thankfully there's a golden portrait of ivy every morning that I see
Time is a dark / Time is a dark / Time is a dark / Time is a dark feeling
The closer, “Today I’ll Have You Around,” is a folksy meditation on the inextricable nature of grief and love. Warm finger-picked guitars and sweet vocal harmonies are layered with the rushing sound of the ocean, a theme that’s present throughout the record. By the album’s end, the ocean has come to represent something like death or renewal, or the mysterious expanse of both.
The entire record gives the listener the solitary, cozy feeling of being alone in a remote cabin, detached from everything and yet connected to so much more. Sprague’s songwriting is immersive and entrancing, and the metaphysical themes of each track are as comforting as they are terrifying. After all, those themes — darkness, water, self — are some of the only certainties we have in this tiny, lonely world.