Review Summary: A glass case of emotion.
Although album covers rarely matter, First Flower
hits the nail on the head. Molly Burch’s sophomore record is an introspective space, represented by that soul-penetrating gaze that Burch shoots the camera person on what feels like an iconic photograph. There’s an entire spectrum of emotion behind those eyes; it feels like she could be conveying pain and loneliness, or awe-induced admiration. First Flower
is appropriately wide-ranged in its topical scope – Burch still writes about the kind of romance that enveloped her debut, Please Be Mine
, but also focuses her attention inward towards depression and anxiety. It makes for an interesting development in her lyrics as well, marking a shift from relational platitudes to thoughts and emotions more private in nature.
Molly has the ideal voice to cover that range, often beginning with a smoky, lower register before limberly climbing the ladder to high-pitched vibrato, as she does on the melancholic ‘Wild.’ In that instance, her quivering vocals could not have been better placed, successfully depicting a woman who laments introversion and longs for more of a spontaneous approach to life (“Wishful thinking's got me blinded…it's in my nature to be guarded / I wish I was a wilder soul”). Molly frequently does this; she takes a common situation and focuses on what’s happening behind the scene instead – for instance the thoughts that race through her mind as she struggles (and fails) to access enough courage to take the leap
– whatever that risk may be. On a song like ‘Wild’, it’s easy to relate to those feelings and get inside of her headspace. It’s what makes First Flower
feel so personal.
Burch drives her emotions home through poignant repetition. It’s a technique that makes it easy to lose interest in her narrative, as she tends not
to vary the verses/choruses in favor of allowing each recurrence to swell with more and more emotion, emboldening the impact each time. In certain moments it is absolutely stunning – such as when she repeats “You are my man” over spacey, wistful guitar work on the album’s title cut. However, on tracks that are less gripping, it facilitates that dreaded slide into background space, where the consumer is listening but not cognitively present. While it would be ill-advised to label this as a weakness outright, she could serve to benefit her craft by injecting additional non-vocal accents capable of alleviating the burden that is currently placed squarely on her vocals.
feels like a reclusive album emotionally, lyrically, and musically – but it’s one that actively strives to break through. It feels like being trapped inside your own thoughts, battling with the kinds of choices that incrementally alter your life on a daily basis. Burch weighs these decisions – whether they’re romantically inclined or on a broader scale – and expresses that struggle through a series of mesmerizing vocal melodies. There is certainly room for Molly to grow and introduce more diverse elements to her music, but for now First Flower
is the musical equivalent of that longing gaze on the cover; it’s an expression of both hope and turmoil – but more than anything else, a desire to shed precaution, open up, and become that “wilder soul” that she so endearingly references. First Flower
is an album that looks out the window and longs for that kind of freedom.