Emily Sprague and her upstate troupe play slow, sparse pop often dubbed skeletal. But if their tracks are built solely or mostly from bones, they make a hearty broth, pure and potent as consommé. Theirs is a brace against the end of the season, a warmth that resists the calendar’s last ice and will carry us through to spring.
At the fiddlehead end of her first Brooklyn winter – was the snow falling or thawing? – Florist’s frontwoman, Emily Sprague, saddles a bike and cycles up Broadway and sticks turning left to the concrete median. She falls and rolls under a semi-, looks up at its belly like a deathbed. The chassis and the axels and the mud flaps pass her over. She shoots up; life unfurls like a fern frond.
St. Luke’s staff speak a bleak prognosis: first, a lordosis fracture, even worse, a shattered arm; nerve damage lightnings down to her fingerprints. How then to cradle a guitar’s neck?
Her verse rings with the disjuncts of a broken body: she feels her bones and her veins, but one among her limbs has become a phantom.
If Emily frets, she plays it cool. She chords a keyboard with one able hand and sews emotion in paralysis’ fallow soil. The solitude of getting whole begets half a harvest, songs like sprigs of misery and mixed-up-ness and the stage whisper of mortality.
Her verse rings with the disjuncts of a broken body: she feels her bones and her veins, but one among her limbs has become a phantom. She hears the birds chirp glory to morning; she discerns that they sing on the pane’s other side.
The window opens finally with the breeze of healing and a family banding back together. Emily’s Albany posse (Rick Spataro, Jonnie Baker) thickens and petals her the thin stem of her voice with calm, cantering percussion and Sundaydream string melodies, the arabesque sort that vapor off the near horizon when one’s attention is still at stake.
Sprague’s poems reckon with the marvels buried in memento mori like “i thought that i saw the other side / but it was only sunlight in my eyes”
Critics garland their debut album with plaudits. Sprague’s poems reckon with the marvels buried in memento mori like “i thought that i saw the other side / but it was only sunlight in my eyes,” and prompt comparisons to the stoic words of woods-sages Phil Elverum and Conor Oberst.
A follow-up EP, last year’s If Blue Could Be Happiness, cements the charms that bouquet in their friendship’s intimacies. One sees in its closed-eye quietudes three pairs of knees arrayed in a hexagram, Sprague’s reel-to-reel sat at its centre, creaking with the floorboards of a cast-off Catskill schoolhouse. The light streaming in by the windwide doorway is springwarm. It is probably auburn.
Sprague is making significant forays onto the alien terrain of ambient composition
Beside her work with Florist, which she records on her own with savvy and gadgets amassed in the course of a decade, Sprague is making significant forays onto the alien terrain of ambient composition. She posts to YouTube short tutorials for modulating synth equipment, with titles like ‘Meadowphysics’ and niche-use terms ‘patch’ and ‘page’ and ‘menu,’ that seem deeply at odds with the folkist bent of her co-work.
However, at the end of her most-viewed video, in the final demo of a noon-blue box, a caption cuts directly to the middle ambiguity that prevails in her songwriting. Like a lyric it shucks a husk to bare the beauty of living as death’s witness, to release a seed that falls fertile in last year’s rot.
“The organelle / can be anything you want it to be / or what anyone else wants it to be.”