From the cover’s weathered look of a vintage postcard to the winding of a music box in the introductory piece, the self-titled debut from Floral Portrait is a rich tapestry of cozy psychedelic pop. The project is a collaboration of Athens, Georgia-based duo Jason Bronson and Jacob Chisenhall, as well as a substantial number of collaborators and session musicians. Recorded over four years at his Athens studio The Glow, producer Jesse Mangum lauds the project as “the most ambitious record I’ve ever worked on”.
The harmonies of “Clarissa” echo like pure sunshine pop from an imagined Curt Boettcher songbook. While it’s clear that the tightly arranged compositions draw from the glories of Brian Wilson’s mid-sixties production, the highlights that float to the top really achieve capturing that true orchestral sound, a rarified accomplishment mastered by later artists such as the High Llamas or various gems from deep catalogue of the Elephant 6. These avant-pop avenues are where Floral Portrait shines, with lush instrumentation that includes string arrangements, vibraphone, glockenspiel, harpsichord and much more. Most evident is the record’s selection of instrumentals: while brief, woozy interludes weave through baroque pop melodies, “Sunset Stroll” is an exotica piece that, intentional or not, serves as the record’s own “Let’s Go Away for a While”. Meanwhile, “Winter Isolation” seems like it could have been a charming leftover from understated lo-fi gem Friends.
It’s a concise effort like many great pop predecessors from the sixties, clocking in at a mere twenty five minutes (like a song cycle to be immediately circled back). Perhaps the record’s most shining moment, “Waves”, is a testament that the strength of songwriting is not to be overlooked in the lush orchestral fray here. “We spent every evening out on the pier/searching for sadness, we searched all around”, Bronson sings amidst an almost haunting arrangement of piano and lap steel guitar. Like the remnants of sparse percussion echoing through the analogue studio, the whole piece repeatedly invites you back in for a new variety of sonic subtleties to discover. | m neeley