Flowers is a band aptly named. They’re very pretty, and they can be either celebratory or funereal. Their sound revels in the full bloom of youth, both in its breathless ‘joie de vivre’ and moments of more lachrymose sentimentality. Their debut, Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do, shifts between sobering stillness and bursts of exuberance, and often sounds like a less dissonant Black Tambourine or a sedate Talulah Gosh. Singer (and sometime bassist/synth player) Rachel Kenedy’s voice weaves a gossamer thread around tweedy jangles of guitar and the (occasionally warm) austerity of the synthesizer. She sounds ethereally evocative like Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, yet gently tethered to the earth in a fashion surprisingly reminiscent of Natalie Merchant.
The London trio plays with minimalist precision, letting singer Kenedy’s frank lyrics take center stage. “I will never tire of this, if I do, please bury me beside you. I am never growing old,” she declares on “Young”, the album’s first track. Later, on “Lonely”, she captures the anguished knot one feels in the chest during a breakup, the unpleasant tangle of pain and desire for someone you can no longer love. “I was never very smart and I’ve broke it at the start. Leave me alone, but don’t leave me lonely. Leave me alone, but please don’t leave.” The music itself feels like that need to hold someone who has hurt you dearly, or to perhaps to cleave to the pain of that loss for fear of it departing entirely.
Flowers’ influences are clearly evident throughout the album, though they manage not to be entirely defined by them. Guitarist/synth player Sam Ayres united Kenedy and drummer Jordan Hockley through an advertisement to make music like “Madonna through a broken tape machine,” though they’re far more coherent than that. The sound ranges from the sunny new wave of “I Love You” to the stark, almost bluesy final track “Stuck“. Though they range into the repetitive, even approaching the soporific on numbers like Anna, Flowers ultimately compels with Stone Rosy drumming and more angular guitar on tracks like “Joanna” and “Comfort“. Producer, and former Suede guitarist, Bernard Butler’s presence is evident, lending a soft lushness to the music without overwhelming the album’s simplicity.
Overall, Do What You Want To is a charming first effort. Later this month, they’ll be playing seven shows in New York at the CMJ Music Marathon, which should capitalize on their prior exposure at last year’s Popfest and European tour with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. While Kenedy claims that “It’s just a matter of time before we fall out of love,” in all likelihood fans are only beginning their infatuation with Flowers.