Waking up with half a hangover is basically what Full Flower, the latest release from Us and Us Only, sounds like. Everything is a little hazy and slow, it’s all monotone, you’re a little crabby, you can remember wandering and getting lost the night before. Everything is just a little subdued until your coffee kicks in (and then the coffee wears off and things get slow again.) That’s Full Flower, complete with the growing caffeine buzz and withdrawal (though here, it’s building and receding energy and tempo.) Full Flower is the Baltimore-based band’s first full-length album, though they have previously released four EPs. It’s slowcore with a little extra synth and a few extra riffs in the middle.
Most of the album is slow with the majority of the interest coming from the clean guitar. The vocals are disinterested and, at many points, monotone. Just strings and piano are brought in on the brief, sparse “Veiled – Forming.” Speaking of being sparse, on first listen, much of the album feels minimalist because the instruments aren’t competing with each other. There is action going on, though – it’s just enough to be interesting while also staying low-key. Well, it’s not all low-key. The album builds to an energy crescendo by the eighth (of twelve) tracks and then comes back down. The title track fully flowers (see what I did there?) into a rock song complete with guitar riffs, though it’s a jarring change from the rest of the album because it has way more energy than the others – even though it built up to this. Still, the other tracks don’t come near the quicker tempo and more deliberate sound of “Full Flower” and the change is noticeable. The following track, “Lawn,” has a bit of anger in the vocals (it even has a yell toward the end) but is still a noticeable drop in mood. The remaining songs soften and fade out in the end. That’s not to say the lack of energy is a bad thing – in fact, the slower, moodier songs are good. Us and Us Only lulled me into a false sense of slowcore security, slowly ramped up, then they threw a surprise in, then they let it slide back into the slowcore. That is quite a shocking twist to someone nursing half a hangover.
The lyrics mostly contain the same ennui that the vocals convey. There are lots of lines about sleeping, including falling asleep in the mall (“Veiled – Forming.”) and sleeping for three whole days (“After Halloween…”) Then there’s stuff about staying in because he’s too stoned to leave his room (“My Mouth”) and being buried while he lays in place (“Shame.”) He’s also bored to death (“Full Flower.”) You can almost feel the band’s eye-rolling (or you can see it in the video for “Full Flower,” where the band sways while rolling their eyes everywhere but at the camera.)
There are plenty of non-slowcore influences to be heard on the album. “Kno” is a mix of ‘90s grunge/pop hybrid on the verses and an ‘80s slow dance on the chorus. That, with a touch of Smiths all over it. “Dresses” has a little bit of Coheed and Cambria to it with its building storm of instruments (the shimmery cymbals sound like an approaching thunderstorm that bring big crashes as it passes through.) “Winter Sails,” with its lonely piano and synth, sounds like Death Cab for Cutie. The whole thing has little touches of Brand New (sans screaming) and Death Cab (the synth and occasional piano and strings link them.)
Full Flower is an interesting slowcore/indie album with dreamy synth – “floaty” is a good adjectives to describe it. It fits with that hazy, groggy feeling the morning after the night before – it’s a perfect Sunday morning album. Hopefully your coffee kicks in in time to enjoy the riffs of “Full Flower.”