Review Summary: A collection of what seems like leftovers from the Boo Human sessions that shows Joan of Arc perfecting their sound.
Joan of arc is a difficult band. Their sound is disjointed and nonsensical, making you wonder if what you just listened to had a point. They are also one of the most original and spontaneous offshoots of the Cap n’ Jazz tree. The main thing Joan of Arc albums attempt to do is create an atmosphere. Flowers is an album built on avant-garde experiments filtered through an indie rock lens, coming nowhere close to a Cap n’ Jazz reunion.
Flowers begins with “Fogbow” which is just plain beautiful. The heavier reliance on electronics is immediately apparent, serving as a welcoming introduction to the album. They complement Kinsella’s voice perfectly and provide a perfect backdrop for underwater-inspired lyrical imagery tied in with courtrooms and other abstract ideas. Kinsella has not made his lyrics more accessible or in some cases even coherent. They possess an almost stream of consciousness sort of directness yet maintain a fragile poetic feeling.
This leads into one of the standouts of the album: “The Garden of Cartoon Exclamations.” This song has a very direct piano backdrop throughout in a way that complements Kinsella’s random lyrics. The lyrics themselves have an extremely goofy cartoonish feel which seems to represent a women realizing how bizarre the mundane details of life can be. What makes the song work so well though is how the lyrics are delivered with an odd sort of confidence despite how strange they are.
“Flowers” is a suitable acoustic guitar composition with some steady drumming but drags on a bit with a run-time of six minutes and thirty-eight seconds. “Fasting” is just a bunch of random sounds and electronic noises for two minutes. These two songs illustrate what the majority of the album is and what a good deal of Joan of Arc’s career has been dedicated to. These experiments attempt to create a mood linking to the songs together rather than something that is catchy or even for better or worse memorable.
“Explain Yourself #2” is definitely one of the highlights of the albums and is almost reminiscent of Owls. The odd guitar riffs and steady drumming throughout make it seem almost as if it was an outtake of Owls lone album. Kinsella gives slightly more direct lyrics on life in general and makes this song surprisingly direct by typical Joan of Arc standards.
“Tsunshine” is the next another noteworthy instrumental, which is again mostly a sparse acoustic guitar interlude that maintains the relaxed vibe of the album. A “Delicious Herbal Laxative,” which only lasts about 2 minutes, is a pleasant change of pace that keeps the albums central vibe in tact. The instrumental features a more direct representation of Joan of Arc’s sound similar to moments like “Explain Yourself #2” and “Life Sentence/Twisted Ladder.”
“Explain Yourselves” is an interesting experiment that shows some promising psychedelic influences. Kinsella’s vocals are processed to fit the trippy backdrop of the song and almost work as another instrument in the mix. The guitar part is extremely gentle and the drums are subdued and very subtle. The song initially sounds like another interlude to maintain the feeling of the album but upon repeated listens becomes one of the albums bright spots.
“Life Sentence/Twisted Ladder” is another surprisingly straightforward song. The song is a bit heavier and feels very natural in contrast to some of the more forced instrumental experiments on the album. The song contains fuzzed out, distorted guitars and is complimented by an interesting rhythm section. This hearkens to one of Tim Kinsella’s other side projects Make Believe in the most positive way possible. It stands as an irritating reminder that Kinsella could easily write a song better than many of the more widely accepted indie acts.
Flowers is an album that offers hints of a more straight forward version of Joan of Arc’s sound while perfecting the sonic experiments of past albums. Flowers exemplifies all of the reasons why people still listen to Joan of Arc and also stands as a document to why the band still gives some people headaches.