Florist Explores the Duality of Loneliness on 'Emily Alone'

So much has changed. So much always has. Since Florist’s last album. Since the last sentence. A death, a breakup, a move to California. A new, shade-cooled home where Emily Sprague is “folding in neatly always/ That “This is my life” feeling/ And I shut off all the lights myself.” Emily Alone, constructed in isolation from the rest of the band, shimmers a reflection of a world — Sprague’s own. An exhale. 

Photo by: Carley Solether

Photo by: Carley Solether

Her chronological particulars aren’t really relevant; those griefs are unfathomable, and hers. But Sprague— sharp, has always spotted the enormity in microcosm anyway. “Heaven’s light with [...] candlelight.” Response in tiny movements, because the only way to begin to digest is in sips and in bites. “If I could see the future/ I would lay down/ Eat a tangerine and make a cup of tea.” So she moves in shuffles, in unperturbed quiet like only a person who lives alone can, and “listen[s] to the love that I’m holding/ And the beauty of unfolding.” 

In her aloneness, Sprague smudges the lines between herself and her environment, and swells into its limitless undertow. “Dark into dark / I want it to pull me deeply.” She stays under a while. “Tell me sky, where does this day go,” she says as she lets the clouds take her. Relishing, relinquishing. Reverent in her noticing. “Unbelievable I even get to see it.” She ends each song the way each little life does — without ceremony, or warning. 

Of course, just as there is to the body, there is a limit to solitude — where it is no longer a relief, but becomes a kind of shelter-lessness. Tiring and cement-grating. “My hands on my body / your hands on my body/ the air on my body/ the sun on my body” — when any touch can feel like forgiveness. 

The particulars of my own life are also irrelevant, but my year has hopscotched around every kind of seclusion, from adamant solitude to shaky, naked loneliness. And on the first track, as Emily sings to herself, she also sings, by phonetic chance, to me. “Emilie, just know that you’re not as alone / As you feel in the dark / As you feel in the dark/ As you feel in the dark / As you feel in the dark / As you feel in the dark/ As you feel in the dark/ As you feel in the dark.”

She repeats the latter line seven times, like a carousel of sound-shadows that reassure shoulders, that fill empty space like a flood of hallway lights. “The glow/ Keeps me company.” There are a few instances of this vocal hammering, a decision that feels more philosophical than aesthetic. Sprague isn’t letting us skim passively; we have to awaken, sticky, into prodded curiosity. Alight to what is going on, here, in our own bodies. Maybe she’s showing herself, too, that she has the time to coil and recoil.

It also feels like an attempt to kick through artifice, or “a very earthly series of thoughts.” “Oh, to touch something/ Inside of you/ And outside of you/ At the same time,” she sings to someone. But she sees a tradeoff — “I could have words/ or I could have solitude” —  between company and the room to figure anything out. The way trying to think into human language means folding up into legible patterns. Idiomatic expression. “Celebration” meanders like a drowsy mind — a poem bifurcates into two different melodies. On “Today I’ll Have You Around” two thoughts duck in and out of sight like seams. “The sea / You turn to me / And ground / In my eyes.”

On “M,” as a lone pair of steps crunches under the peering twitters of birds, Sprague sets aside the rest of the album’s wandering guitar. She weighs into a piano, four-legged. Stuck fast to the ground with its own shining weight. And she sings. To the one person who can seep into even her deepest quiet. “Mom/ You are the only one.” Her lips barely close around mom, the second m almost an n, like she’s just making a sound, rather than saying a name. And I guess that’s what mom is anyway, more of a sound than a name, a reaching for the face crumpled by a shared pillow. Identical eyes, just creased. Bedhead and morning whispers. “Sleep next to me/ Like no one does.” This song is day-stopping. 

Sprague summons other artists, too. Her voice tiptoe-lilts around the precariousness of time like Big Thief’s “Mary” on “Time is a Dark Feeling.” Her eyes are lost like Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” at the end of “Celebration.” She’s not alone, as she feels around in the dark.

And as she searches, “running ‘round looking for treasure in the ground,” she finds, in the looking. Lost — “Did I live through that day? / Did it happen to me?” her voice lifting like a stomach when a roller coaster drops — and also found. “A sparkle tells me who I am/ And where my moon begins.” Both are true, at once. “Why do I feel so happy when I stare at the ocean/ Then devastated when I stare at the ocean?” She splays a hammock between the trunks of her tall contradictions.

“Shadow comes around sometimes,” she softens, like she’s talking about the neighbor’s cat, her voice almost beckoning. When it does come, she tells herself, “It’s time to go/ “Inside your mind.” And it won’t be for nothing: “You’ll learn something/ then give it back to the universe/ who will give it to somebody else.” The universe gives that something when Sprague’s voice, like a hand flat in the middle of a back— both a reassurance and a push— says, “You are not your final form/ You are not the ocean’s arms.” That there is salvation in the inevitability of molting. That there is certainty in the ocean’s pull, and push, and cradle. And cradle, and cradle, and cradle, and cradle, and cradle, and cradle.

-Émilie Kneifel

Delaney Motter