Photo Credit: Ashley Osborn
Future Shine, the third full-length release from Hood River, Oregon band flor is an impressive collection of synth-heavy uptempo dream pop. Songs are lyrically confounding at times, but that never becomes off-putting. Lead singer Zach Grace (who also plays guitar and keyboards) projects a highish voice that often comes off as childlike, almost akin to a Billy Corgan who’s still waiting for puberty to hit. A few of the songs on the album take full advantage of this, such as the appropriately-titled “Play Along”: “We used to run as if it mattered // We used to get lost… // Are you missing getting lost?” The mixed blessing of maturity is hardly a new or unexplored theme, but flor makes it work here.
A few themes on Future Shine are a bit more ambiguous. “Big Shot” is not the Billy Joel song, although the category of musician represented by the veteran rocker might be whom the track is targeting. “Look at them, they play guitar // They dress the part, gonna be a star… // It’s a cool cat living out a life I wish I had.” Unlike Dire Straits’ 1985 classic “Money for Nothing”, – which is sung from the perspective of blue-collar laborers envying rock stars whom they believe don’t legitimately earn their keep – it’s hard to tell if flor is, as a working band, expressing their own desire for a more prolific career, or just singing from the point of view of another average, everyday person for whom rock stardom would be more of a fantasy than an actual goal.
A few of the songs do seem to want to explore the simpler and more innocent side of life, such as “Skate.” Though the lyrics are seemingly an invitation to skateboard through the streets, it makes one instead imagine a well-supervised afternoon at a roller rink (a cautious party anthem for cautious times, perhaps?) The third track “Clouds” is musically a well-time turn, a bit more of an uptempo escapist pop song than the two that precede it. “Gotta Do Something”, between its climactic chorus and even its title, would be right at home as part of the score of a modern stage musical. Album-closer “The Way We Talk About a Song” from its title alone seems like another exercise in navel-gazing, but the lyrics seem to want to play both sides, at once stating “Yeah, we’ve been there // Nothing new here” but then expressing, “In the mess, we won’t come undone // If we’re all about chasing the song.” It’s hard to know what the “mess” they’re talking about just happens to be.
In the final few seconds of “The Way We Talk About a Song” – and in turn, the album – all other instrumentation is abruptly dropped in favor of just Grace’s voice and an acoustic guitar. This may be flor’s way of leaving the listener with the actualization that flor is a real band once we strip away the modern production (even though it isn’t even that elaborate by today’s standards). Point taken. Overall, flor really isn’t going to floor anyone, but should certainly appeal to fans of Foster the People, the War on Drugs, CHVRCHES, and even Fountains of Wayne. Future Shine may or may not be remembered years from now, but definitely shines for the half-hour of its running time.