Well I have to extend my thanks to Flora members Ryan O'Toole and Max Miller for reminding me that I need to get out more. You see these two are what make up what may well be one of my new favorite things about my home city of Chicago. Flora has a new album called A Sword Of Holly and it has me completely undone. In an era where adhering to one genre is just so limiting for so many artists, these guys say f**k it and dip their toes in damn near every genre I love. Funk, alt rock, jazz, pop, soul - seriously someone needs to stop these guys! I wanna make out with this album. Just suck the lips right off of it.
Okay let me calm down and be a professional for a moment. Let’s start with the music. As I said there are a lot of genres to unpack. This album is action packed and slips into new tracks so effortlessly you may not notice. I think one of the key instrumental elements to the success of this album is the percussion which is working overtime to make me want to dance, clap my hands, or even just nod my head. I also have to take another moment to swoon over all this woodwind action. They've tenor sax and soprano sax just doing serious epic jazzy solos alongside the incredible piano work. It's not hard to hear that the ’60s and ’70s had a serious impact on Flora as far as music is concerned. They're not afraid to build up to the big, fantastical crescendos that explode into glorious instrumental mayhem.
On a vocal level, Flora keeps things a little more consistent, which is cool. It grounds all the crazy cool things happening on the music end. They have a high strung indie sound to the vocals that are both modern and yet given a bit of a vintage treatment at the same time. Again, you can hear that ’60s and ‘70s influence at work. They are also fantastic lyricists. The words are as free flowing as the music but stuffed with complex meaning. The words can be ironic, cheeky, downright somber and even haunting. The lyrics feel so organic when paired with the vocal styling.
The amount of people involved in this album is so vast that Flora refers to the list of collaborators as the "cast." Too often having so many fingers in the same pot can create a discomforting crowding sensation in music, but it felt like everyone was right where there were supposed to be for this album. The production had their hands full. This could not have been easy. The album's engineering is spot on. I can taste and digest everything being served.
To me, Flora at their core are architects. They built this off the wall album with so much love and care and it holds up so strongly on its own making its mark in the expansive Chicago music scene. I cannot wait to hear what comes next and of course I am beyond excited that catching these guys live that will most likely only cost me a quick train ride.
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