Emily Sprague’s music places a supreme value on ambiance and mood. It’s been reasonably apparent in her work with folk-inclined bedroom pop act Florist or even from her calming, aesthetic-driven and synthesizer-heavy social media presence but became even more clear as Sprague ventured into solo ambient releases in the last few years. That makes it almost surprising to find that the newest Florist album is Sprague alone with mostly just acoustic guitar. But the tender, meditative Emily Alone continues Sprague’s trajectory with no struggle. While mostly vocal and guitar pieces, it’s delicately arranged with bits of field recordings, synth additions, and restrained fingerpicking to create a subtle and soothing release.
The lyrics for Florist’s past releases have often referenced nature and environment with Sprague’s early home in the Catskill Mountains coming up frequently. Emily Alone takes its origins in Sprague’s move to Los Angeles alone with the songs resulting from that time of personal change and growth. Interestingly, there’s an even greater focus on nature as Sprague observes the coastal geography with an emphasis on water. “I walk and I read, I spend time in the sea,” she sings near the beginning of opener “As Alone.”
The lyrics are largely stripped of references to relationships and interactions with others. Though those intimately specific personal references are a hallmark of the bedroom pop scene Sprague came up in alongside artists like Frankie Cosmos, Told Slant, and Gabby’s World (formerly known as Eskimeaux), her increasing emphasis on instead observing her natural surroundings further distinguishes the music of Florist. Her songs place value on small moments, the life in front of us. “Oh, today is the only day / how to feel all the earthly things,” Sprague sings at the end of “Shadow Bloom,” the album’s penultimate track.
Driven by these gentle observations and tender moments, there’s an almost Nick Drake-like solemn air to the album but more fit to a light morning than a foggy night. The songs, full of sparse acoustic guitar picking and gentle strumming, rarely pulse with dynamics but seem to gently swell if they do build, as on “Moon Begins” when the sound of piano, cooed vocals, and a touch of electric guitar offer an almost unnoticed climax. “Rain Song” rises up from contemplative thoughts and naturalistic language to a lush harmony of watery synth and plaintive electric guitar picking making one of the album’s most beautiful offerings. Others move more like poems. “Celebration” and “Still” both feature spoken word from Sprague but it’s the wavelike structuring used on the former that really emphasizes the close focus of poetry with subtle textures—field recordings of birds and water, synths, light electric guitar—coming in and out.
Though often serene, there is a certain lacking to the solo arrangements. While Sprague has added some instrumentation that couldn’t be performed in real time by one person there seems to have been a conscious choice to avoid the feeling of a full band—drums, or percussion of any sort, never enter the mix. Emily Alone is void of collaboration, which can hamper its potential but also demonstrates a greater commitment to the songs’ purpose in providing clarity and expression for Sprague during a time of independent transition. It’s an ode to solitude, or maybe more specifically an attempt to view loneliness with content.