On Bones EP, St. Flora paints delicate and sparse electronic soundscapes punctuated with sterile, ratcheting percussion and smooth, swaying vocals delivered in an urgent whisper. In a brief four songs, the Virginia songwriter, Sam McMullin, nods back towards early-2000s indie-electro-pop while also looking towards contemporary pop and indie-tronica trends.
It's worth noting early on that the album predominately features nearly continuous, repetitive vocal lines and lyrics that vary and build in intensity rather than varying very much in content or musically. Think of the ceaseless delivery of Alt-J, but without the nasally qualities. While the instrumentation tends to be sparse—especially the non-percussive aspects—the vocals lay on top of it all and hold the whole enterprise together. Typically reedy and tending towards falsetto, when they build with the music they can take on a deeper tone and some heartier qualities.
The album's first two tracks—or first half, as it is—find the pop/indie-pop elements the most prevalent. The song “Empire” with its claps and spare key progressions might initially bring to mind the likes of Lorde's brand of pop, but the layers upon layers of syncopated percussion is done in the style of the Postal Service of minimalist electronic acts like Pantha du Prince. “Bulletproof” is more unabashedly modern pop, bearing both a distinct intensity in its vocal delivery while never nearing what could be considered “belting it out.”
The other two songs represent either end of St. Flora's energy range. “Caitlyn,” lilts almost in the direction of rock with some more complex instrumentation and vocals that eventually snarl—ever so slightly suggestive of Future Island's Samuel T. Herring. Contrarily, “All the Bad Things” finds McMullin at his most stripped down—which is saying something for a project already embracing minimalism.
Ultimately, a four-song EP is essentially a proof of concept, and in that regard Bones EP is a success. The album has a raw feel to it—all written, performed and recorded by one person: if not loneliness, there is a distinct sense of solitude here. So, while it's not a revolutionary piece of art, it provides an apt showcase for a talented young man to show off his impressive vocal abilities and his minimalist musical and mixing abilities.
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