Review Summary: There’s no place like home.
It’s been one (1) incredibly long year since Flora Billen jumped onto our radar with her unassuming but strong debut EP, Keep Calling
. Since then, the world and its people have continued this decade’s trend of rapid change, and no one is feeling the need for constant adaptation more than our youth. Her first album faces this front and center, its very title Emerald City
pits Billen in an unfamiliar world she must feel her way out of—once again, she proves herself up to the task.
Billen’s voice has certainly not suffered in the meantime—on album highlights “Don’t Fit In” and “Holy Roller,” she commands a stronger control of her listless yet layered vocal performance than before, yet is humble enough to let the music speak for her when it should. And from the slow unfurl of its opening track to its dreamy back-half, its clear that her sonic repretoire has expanded considerably this time around. Swelling strings, jazzy horns, and eclectic percussion all punctuate different moments, but never paint over Billen’s roots in 90s alt-pop. Even though similar sonic expansion has been a trend in her contemporaries, this new toolkit feels refreshingly playful rather than plagiaristic.
Befitting its Wizard of Oz-inspired title, Emerald City
is often a dreamy, hazy adventure, that makes the most of Billen’s isolated circumstances. While her lyrics are often understandably despondent, her hope is what’s infectious. In the midst of a tumultuous year, Flora Billen has risen to the challenge and delivered a consistently pleasant and bite-sized soundtrack to yet another 2020s summer.