The Decemberists are known best for their unmistakable integration of folk, country, and rock genres into one unified sound. This style is coalesced by frontman Colin Meloy’s distinct vocals, which fit well into the band’s overall sound. Despite their past successes, their latest E.P., Florasongs, fails to create something new, fresh, or unique. While the E.P. does produce some satisfying tracks, the record as a whole seems to settle for what has been done before. Overall, the Decemberists deliver a rather disappointing release with Florasongs, failing to provide listeners with anything different from what they did with their previous releases.
The first track, “Why Would I Now,” is not too weak of a song on its own. The song is driven forward by the strumming of an acoustic guitar, and is supported with a backing of electric guitar, string, and piano elements. Meloy’s melodies within each chorus are pleasing to the ear. “Have I ever stood back and watched you fall? Ditched your call? Cut you, bend around?” asks Meloy, “Why would I now?” However, “Why Would I Now” feels as if it is building up to something non-existent. Instead of reaching a particular climax, the song keeps falling back to the same old thing, never taking the listener to something new or refreshing.
“Riverswim” feels the same way. It is a nice song on its own, and creates a soothing, folk anthem feel, yet never progresses to where it needs to go. The song intends to put the main focus on the lyrics, and these are rather impressive. “River run, and brother row,” Meloy intones, “and the ease between us, the calm below, the rings, these twisted things, cast off in the arms of those long low-aways.” Despite this strength, the melody and the instrumentation behind the vocals fail to make the track something unique, and do not provide the emotion needed to make it a memorable experience.
The next two tracks are perhaps the strongest on the entire record. “Fits and Starts,” a propulsive punk rock track, creates a nice contrast to the slower “Riverswim” before it. It certainly isn’t anything extraordinary for its genre, but it does make Florasongs more interesting and gripping as a whole. “The Harrowed and the Haunted,” on the other hand, slows things down once again, yet does something all previous songs before it could not achieve. The song can best be described as a piano-driven anthem that relies heavily on the rhythm section to carry it along. The track manages to bring out a melancholy emotion within the listener, and the chorus tells the sad story of a man traveling to meet his love without knowing whether she will be waiting for him when he arrives. “Will you be there waiting? Or is your heartbeat fading?” he sings, “fading from the time, still miles to go till I arrive.” “The Harrowed and the Haunted” is the only track on the extended play that progresses to something greater, and brings the listener to new places, both musically and emotionally.
Out of the five songs contained within Florasongs, only two really manage to leave a lasting impression. Most of the record seems to settle for good instead of great. Each song has its own strengths, but all in all, they seem to be building up to nothing. “Fits and Starts” and “The Harrowed and the Haunted” save the work from being a completely dull experience. Florasongs can be satisfying for fans of the Decemberists, but for those not familiar with the band, it’s probably better to start with another one of their more iconic, fulfilling albums.