Emily Sprague’s music, whether under her own name or the Florist moniker, has always managed to distill the swirl of emotions that surround isolation into something poignant and powerful. Her ambient compositions have always exuded this desolate, placid beauty, moving in circular patterns that offer a sense of numbing comfort. As Florist, she found herself in the center of a trio, contrasting stark lyrics with a more vibrant, full-bodied backing band. It showed a duality in her music, two different paths that often led to the same place.
Those roads cross at Sprague’s new effort as Florist, Emily Alone. In stepping away from her collaborators, she’s created her best album by any name; a hauntingly gorgeous record that faces the depths of uncertainty with a poignant grace, pulling from the negative space of her ambient work and letting her words shine.
It’s on Emily Alone that Sprague truly comes into her own as a singer and songwriter. Listening to her sing is a touchingly intimate experience, with her double-tracked vocals filling the sparse finger-picked accompaniments. Evoking the recent work of Phil Elverum in her weary, gentle delivery, her voice is ethereal and wispy, seeming like it could disappear in a gust of wind.
Lyrically, her words often veer from streams of consciousness to bracingly vivid images, facing grief and emptiness with unwavering profundity. The death of her mother in 2017 looms in the background, and shadows of death cast themselves all over the record, from the realization of mortality, to the existential limbo death often brings with it.
Through the record, Sprague hurls questions into the void, hoping for an answer. In the very first seconds of album opener, “As Alone,” she looks for meaning, asking to know her place in this world. On “Time is a Dark Feeling,” she lies awake and wonders if this “will… be a fair ending?” Elsewhere, on the beautiful “Shadow Bloom,” she asks a devastating question in the midst of visualizing her death: “Do you really want to know the thing you spend your life trying to find?”
These questions lose themselves in more abstract explorations. On the stunning “M,” where, complete with birdsong, synths and piano, Sprague paints a constantly-shifting portrait of intimacy and human connection. on “Moon Begins” she beckons, “Space come swallow me now.” Her voice calls and responds on “Today I’ll Have You Around,” meandering in wistful melancholia to wondrous effect.
Despite a wealth of highlights, Emily Alone‘s strongest moment comes when Sprague finally confronts the emptiness inside her. Maybe the prettiest track here, “I Also Have Eyes” is filled with the same existential quandaries: How did I get in this place? Do I even exist? Are the memories real?
What sets the song apart is the way Sprague approaches the hollowness that she carries through the record. On Emily Alone, Sprague is relentlessly inquisitive, looking for answers at every turn. Here, she just stares at the void, finally at peace with her existence.