By Tre Simmons
Recovery is a slow and steady process; whether it be from physical, mental, or any other variation of trauma, time is the only factor that stands in the way of convalescence. Emily Sprague of Florist likely knows this better than most. In 2014, she was involved in a hit and run accident while on her bicycle, where in her neck and arm were broken. The songs that comprise The Birds Outside Sang are a testament to her willingness to keep pushing forward in the things she loves, namely spritely, fizzy melodies that conjure up images of sunbeams through windows and the resilience of the human spirit, all within two to three minute pop songs. Sprague and her bandmates Rick Spataro, Jonnie Baker and Felix Walworth demonstrate that, through courage, friendship and time, a brighter day awaits us if we’re willing to stick around long enough.
Many of the tracks on The Birds Outside Sang are sparse in instrumentation; half of the songs were written mostly solo of Sprague’s accord, while the other half were full band ideas. The separation between these sets of songs are blurred, however. Even so, there’s a lightheartedness to Florist’s tales of rejuvenation, even as she sings of endured pain and the uncertainties of life. On “A Hospital + A Crucifix Made Of Plastic,” Sprague intones, “I’m in a sunny park / lying face down on my back / on a crucifix that’s made of plastic / and it’s painful / but I don’t feel pain at all,” atop a small den of snares and a low synth drone. These elements embody the trials she has faced and, possibly, her unwillingness to let these situations get her down. Her lyrics tend to hover over the lines between weighty, direct statements and lighter fare that show the sentimental joys in life (“Do you and your friends wanna come into the field and watch the fireworks shoot up into the air?” from the title track). At times, she recalls a mix between Frankie Cosmos’ and Porches’ 20 something insecurities and the despondent hope of Sufjan Stevens, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Where Florist differs from other artists is in its soft spoken but ever present joviality that swirls around every guitar twang and breathy melody sung.
The Birds Outside Sang understands its limitations. This album is for small thoughts and contemplation when you aren’t sure just who you are or what you want, but you do know that something in this world is worth seeing, that there is something there worth experiencing. Emily Sprague and her companions have composed a lovely little springtime album, when the temperatures begin to rise, flowers return to meadows and ponderous thoughts through window panes abound. On “I Was,” Sprague sings, “And now I’m not afraid / I found a love that’s here to stay.” These words, over gentle two note guitar melodies, synth noise and skittering drums recall the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in their most lovestricken moments (“Maps,” “Modern Romance/Poor Song”), and also serve as a mantra to the entire album. If Sprague can overcome all that she’s been through and hold onto a quiet, unbridled joy, then why can’t everyone do the same? This is what The Birds Outside Sang seems to say to those willing to listen.