With the recent acts of terror committed by white nationalists and the threat of nuclear war looming over us all, it’s hard to not feel like we’re living in one big recycling bin of bad. It is said that history repeats itself, but is it only within the realm of bad that it repeats? I don’t think so, I think that culture is in one big circular motion and that we can all be samplers if we’d like. (Not just in music, but for the sake of this review I’m going to stay in that realm). As we progress we have the opportunity to pick and choose our sound from all sounds before. Today, I’m witnessing people take the best parts of genres such as psychedelic, new wave, slowcore, and shoegaze, and morph them into something completely new yet familiar. That is what Us and Us Only have done for their new album Full Flower.
In Us and Us Only‘s case, they are morphing 90’s slowcore, emo-revival, lush synths, and psych-folk to create their own uniquely familiar sound. The songs like to stay soft, building occasionally into big moments, but nothing that ever goes too fast. Songs that remind you of darker times, but leave you singing along. It’s a catchy album, a reminder that sadness is relatable. Now, look at the album artwork (one of my favorites of the year) and look at that cowboy. From top to bottom this album is a journey of sorts, one that is sad, lonely, and sometimes boring. “Lonesome” is often used to describe cowboys and lonesome is the general vibe of the lyrics in Full Flower.
The first track and probably my favorite track off the album is “sun4u,” a quick track full of layered synths and pretty piano lines. The guitar and vocals are on repeat, pouring out relatable lines like “leave me inside, like I would mind, I wanna go back to bed.” A perfect opening track that simply flows into the next track with one simple snare hit.
That slowcore vibe hits full force when the second track “Kno” starts, one of three singles off the album. Just like “sun4u,” this track is picture perfect. The drumbeat is just right for keeping this song moving while keeping it at that slowcore pace. The guitar is there to fill in the gaps but this song really excels in its synth and bass work. The “ah oh-oh” part in the middle is one of the best parts off of the whole album. I actually wish these guys would have explored this sound more in the rest of the album.
Back to back singles leaves us with “Bored of Black,” the part of the journey where the cowboy is sitting around a fire reflecting on a past relationship or some failure. Opening with only guitar and some soft drums the beginning of this song is carried by vocalist/guitarist Kinsey Matthews. Who I can’t help but compare to Kyle Soto of Seahaven. They have incredibly similar voices and music that would fit well in a playlist together. Matthews says some pretty relatable stuff in the 34 minutes that is Full Flower, but nothing as relatable as “I get lost walking to your house, we all get bored, we all get weirded out.” Its a solid track with a mellow verse and a big chorus perfect for driving around at night.
They lose me with track Four “Shame,” A loose feeling track that feels a little too muddy for my taste. I’m also not a fan of too much rhyming in a song, and every other line rhymes with each other. There are a lot of great ideas with this song, but in my opinion, they just weren’t executed properly.
They come back with track Five “My Mouth,” one big build of a song and heavy on the bass. There’s a lot of great guitar work in this one and some really nice ambient vocal breaks. The strings at the end are absolutely needed and complete the song. The lyrics as seen before, match the melancholy vibe nicely with lines like “You won’t find me in your room, I’m too stoned to leave the tomb, too scared to leave the womb.” Sad stuff, but hey, if you didn’t want sad then you shouldn’t be at track five.
Tracks Six and Seven mellow things out for a few minutes. “Veiled / Forming” is just a piano line, some synths, and some vocals. Its kind of a sad stoner anthem. “way2loud” sticks to acoustic guitar and lots of synths to make another one of my favorite tracks on the album. It sounds like Matthews is a sad dude bored with his life and filling the void with a lot of weed and lonely nights alone. Nothing says it better than the line “I am freaking out, I am coming down.”
The title track “Full Flower” kicks things back into gear with a huge chorus and a nice guitar solo tucked in there. This is the song in the set that gets people going. This is the clarity after the come down that were the last two tracks. “I try to hold my breath, that song bores me to death.” It appears that the cowboy is slowly becoming a cynic losing the hope for “gold” or happiness.
In the next track, “Lawn,” Matthews admits he’s “cryptic.” It’s apparent that this is a really bored dude who I hope is figuring it all out with this whole music thing. This is another one of the highlights of the album. Drum and guitar-wise it’s my favorite song and the chorus is really catchy. If I haven’t mentioned it before, this song and the rest of the album would be perfect for a reflective night drive home.
Next up is, “After Halloween Slump,” a ballad of sorts. There’s a lot of nice chimed synths and strings over one of Matthews best vocal deliveries. “It is something to sing to.” This song is a beautiful moment before the tragedy that is “Dresses.” Another build of a song “Dresses,” gets very fuzzy and droney engulfing in its slow pull. “I’ve seen dresses in storefronts, I’ve grown tired of the hunt.”
The album ends with the soft “Winter Sails.” All pianos and synths it seems right that this album opens and ends softs reflecting the whole time. It’s a sweet song and a nice way to end the lonely cowboy’s journey and our own journey in Full Flower. “Put your book away. Let’s just go to sleep. We’ll set sail in the morning.”
All in all Full Flower is a solid album that has some real shining moments when all the pieces come together in the end.