One of the most interesting indie-rock albums of the year.
Label: Topshelf Records
Released: 14th July 2017
There’s a bleary-eyed sleepiness to ‘Full Flower’, the debut full-length from Baltimore indie-rock outfit Us And Us Only, which drifts through every one of the 12 tracks on offer. Yet ‘Full Flower’ is far from soporific. Instead, it shimmers like a dreamy reflection of the moon on a lake; crystal clear and bright but tantalisingly elusive and delicately ethereal.
Fittingly, sleep, and tiredness is a theme Us And Us Only return to time again. This narrative, when teamed with some delightfully off-kilter indie-rock songs, makes ‘Full Flower’ a deep listen that drifts into the background if left unattended. Fortunately, it also possesses flashes of perfect clarity, unfettered excitement and angular histrionics that refocus proceedings just when things begin to slide.
It is in these moments that ‘Full Flower’ blooms; a mournful violin, the burst of a stabbing guitar, gorgeous layered vocals or some unexpectedly thrashing drums. Some songs – such as the outstanding ‘My Mouth’ – feature all of these, but elsewhere they’re used sparingly and with devastating effect. These moments transform the arrangements into ones of vibrant colour, like fireworks exploding in the frigid November sky.
There’s a wistful quality to cuts like ‘way2loud’ and opener ‘sun4u’, blunting the harsher moments of ‘Full Flower’ with their marshmallow-soft edges. ‘After Halloween Slump’ is a striking and achingly gorgeous ballad, lying somewhere between Elliott Smith’s sad laments and ‘Volcano, I’m Still Excited’’s twisted rhythms, while the cataclysmic ‘Dresses’ is the crushing sound of the world caving in. That these songs live harmoniously together highlights the vast canvas on which Us And Us Only are deftly working.
That said, it’s hard to completely shake the melancholic slumber from ‘Full Flower’. It’s an album that shines in periods of quiet, majestic beauty, but boils when it shows its devilish teeth. The result is one of the most interesting – and progressive – indie-rock albums of the year. Rob Mair