Published Apr 22, 2020From the first few notes of Emily Rockarts' Little Flower, it's a debut worth hearing. The beautiful organs and synths of "Get It All Back" form the Sigur Rós-ian music bed for an early showcase of Rockarts' controlled, expressive voice and tender, focused songwriting. After quitting her day job in Toronto and migrating to Montreal to make music full-time, Rockarts has delivered an album largely about personal empowerment and being unafraid to be yourself. With sonic variety tied together by Rockarts' warm, eloquent intonation, Little Flower glows from the inside out.
Little Flower grows out of the folk-rock style of her Mapmaker EP from 2016 but keeps — and expands upon — the graceful, attentive arrangements of that release. While the piano remains her primary songwriting instrument, this album finds Rockarts gravitating further toward the guitar while fleshing out these songs with a variety of different sounds to suit each mood.
The title track is a blissful, laid-back beach-folk tune about the quiet strength of an introvert. The piano ballad "Margaret" reflects on a character who won't commit to love, emanating with the wounded tenderness of Regina Spektor or maybe even Joni Mitchell. "Stay" is a peppy, electrified indie-pop tune about a breakup that you wish wouldn't have happened, even though you could see it coming almost from the beginning. "Stranger" seethes with a dark, sinister energy, its thick guitars stomping along menacingly as Rockarts excoriates the predatory nature of the reviled catcaller: "I'm scared to go out late at night / And I'm frightened of the dark / You put this fear into my mind / When nobody has the right."
The lyricism is fairly modest, with room to be more evocative and uniquely stylish. Songs like "Without You" and "Right Now" are among those that are perhaps too literal and simplistic to be very powerful, but the pleasantness of the songs may be enough to subdue that desire for more depth. "Vistas" and "Golden Hour," meanwhile, have more of that poet's touch, coupled with dazzling, moving, string-based arrangements that end the album with delicate poignancy — especially as Rockarts sings the gorgeous, tearjerker closer about lifelong partners fading away from each other with the onset of Alzheimer's disease — and with more beauty than ever.
Particularly for fans of other Canadian indie-rock auteurs like Feist, Andy Shauf, Dan Mangan, Bahamas and Elliot Maginot (as well as non-Canadians like Faye Webster and Weyes Blood), Emily Rockarts' Little Flower is certainly worth a listen. (Independent)