Though indie-pop band flor launched its debut album, “come out, you’re hiding,” in early 2018, the record has received new widespread attention from the public after a few tour appearances over the past months. Flor has opened shows for the contemporary darlings of the indie-electronic scene like Hayley Kiyoko and Halsey, and its members are currently on their first headlining tour, along with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Grizfolk.
The Oregon-based group was formed in 2014 and is currently signed by Fueled by Ramen, the label that helped bands like Paramore and Panic! at the Disco skyrocket to fame. In general, “come out, you’re hiding” is a charming debut album that does not bring much to the table in terms of novelty or originality but still presents a solid, enjoyable inaugural effort to break into the industry.
Throughout the record, frontman Zach Grace’s vocals are dreamy and aloof, delivering the words indolently in a display of typical West Coast cool. The lyrics team up nicely with the clear, synth atmosphere created by the guitar, bass and drums. The result is a relaxed, almost beachy vibe, as if the album was made to listen to with toes buried in the sand.
The one downside to the ethereal, soft gracefulness of Grace’s voice and the more laid-back production is the way the songs blur together. While the cohesiveness of the album is perfect — no song seems out of place or forced — there are few standout tracks, making it difficult to pinpoint stylistic differences between them, especially in the first quarter of the album.
Hidden in the record are also moments of lyrical brilliance, or at least indicators of promising songwriting potential. For example, in “guarded,” Grace sings “Shuffling your hold, crippling me / Silence in this room, the death of me / I’ll keep close to home what’s pulled from it.”
These interesting bits of writing, however, are too often buried under bland, self-deprecating lyrics shrouded in half-hearted angst. In “where do you go,” for instance, listeners will find it hard not to roll their eyes at cheesy declarations like “Oh, will you show me what it is that makes you so extraordinarily beautiful?”
Other overzealous attempts at portraying the singer’s torment also fall flat, such as in the song “unsaid,” when Grace croons “Nothing hurts when you hide away / Let ‘em in and they’ll bring the pain / But something about you feels okay / Comfort can’t help me grow up anyways.”
Instead, flor is at its best when it allows more rock influences to creep into its songs: In the somewhat peppier tracks, with Grace picking up the pace on the guitar, the rhythm becomes more infectious and distinguished. It is a clever strategy, then, to select “guarded” and “rely” as the opening and closing songs of the album, as they are among the record’s most polished tracks that create the easy charm of flor so readily accessible for a first-time listener.
The muffled vocals on “guarded” are backed by a lively beat, making for an interesting contrast: The track is the type of song to sing along to in the car with an open stretch of road ahead. Lyrically, the song is among the darkest on the album, a fact easy to fly over the public’s heads on the first listen as the words are disguised beneath the stunning, upbeat instrumentals.
The song “rely,” then, while similar in production style and tempo, is the hopeful closing of the album, a direct response to the bleakness of “guarded.” Instead of bemoaning his loneliness and isolation, Grace seems to have found reasons to open up as he proudly proclaims: “What have I ever done / to get to rely on you?”
One of the band’s biggest hits, “hold on,” has a light, joyful atmosphere invoking almost childlike wonder, and its relaxed lyrics and production mirror the song’s creation. “It was written over the course of a shower,” Grace said in an interview with Buzznet. “The best songs always seem to come that easily.” Maybe because of its speedy creation, the lyrics to “hold on” do not offer much depth or substance. Born out of Grace’s passionate vocals and an infectious rhythm, though, it is guaranteed to make listeners smile.
With a music video amassing over 835,000 views on YouTube, the track propelled the band to take another step into the more mainstream music scene, being labelled a calmer version of the 1975.
As a whole, some listeners may find it impossible to ignore how flor resembles the sounds of bigger, more well-known bands like LANY or The Japanese House. Ultimately, “come out, you’re hiding” leaves some originality to be desired but is still an interesting record, solid enough to garner a strong cult following and definitively indicative of the band’s potential for bigger and better things.