Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Flor – Ley Lines

A reader suggestion, and a Fueled by Ramen band that may or may not sound like one…


Joshua Minsoo Kim: Flor are signed to Fueled by Ramen, but Zach Grace’s boyish vocals will have you thinking of groups like Mae, Copeland, and Lydia. The chorus is smart: The guitar sticks to quarter notes, while the drums shuffle along so the vocals can feel impactful despite the soft delivery. The lyrics are vague but hint at wanting to prolong a relationship that should simply end. Given the title, the obscurant messaging feels appropriate.

Vikram Joseph: A dying breed, reanimated — chiming, charming, gently angular early-noughties Sub Pop fare, contemporised through a synth-pop filter that makes it sound like the 1975 covering Plans-era Death Cab. The lyrics are ambiguous to the point of being background noise, but anything that sounds this much like it belongs on The O.C. soundtrack is going to be hard for me to dislike.

Iain Mew: Hearing a group for the first time and thinking “this sounds like X” is nothing new, but rarely is the resemblance so freakily total. If you had given me this labelled as a new Mew single, I would have been disappointed at their lack of ambition but not doubted its veracity for a moment. This is not an Owl City/Postal Service case of someone cleverly exploiting a vacated commercial niche, so I assume it’s coincidence. It doesn’t make it any easier to listen to it as a song and enjoy touches like the power surge at end for themselves, rather than finding their virtues drowned out by their echoes of another band’s choices. 

Ian Mathers: I’m actually a huge fan of the last couple of Mew albums, but I hadn’t realized they were this influential. This might as well be diet Mew, right down to the singer kind of sounding like Jonas Bjerre.

Kylo Nocom: Flor trek beautiful math-pop structuring on “Ley Lines,” with a certain grace that allows for the Fueled By Ramen over-production to read as genuinely mysterious rather than frustratingly sterile. Zach Grace’s Gibbard/VanWyngarden vocals and cryptic lyricism ought to inspire similar admiration, and for the most part they succeed. Unfortunately, a frustrating verse of rote conversational philosophizing nearly kills the intrigue of the song’s earlier imagery, and the bridge could use just a tiny bit more passion than what his resigned voice provides.

Iris Xie: In using “ley lines” as the single metaphor to convey desire over long distance connection, I think about the utter opacity this approach chooses over trying to cram in statements. With those drums and vocals, packing in walls of sound amidst a spare, lullaby-like melody, it focuses more on producing haunting after-impressions of that sadness and warmth, rather than trying to get you to feel it in the moment. I’ve spent more time dwelling on “ley lines” and looking up the concept on Wikipedia rather than listening to this, because I favor that experience more — the contemplation is far more intriguing. That doesn’t make the actual listening bad — it just reminds me that there is more than one way to pay attention to a song, beyond being compelled to play a specific song on repeat to reproduce the sensation of the initial listening experience. For that reason, I find this pretty good, if only because I get to linger in a way that has me subverting my own unexamined expectations as a consumer.

Oliver Maier: “Ley Lines” is not without its redeeming features: the polyrhythmic pre-chorus is a neat touch, and the tremolo picking in the outro is a welcome surprise that lets the track briefly scrape the emotional heights it’s gunning for. Yet taken altogether, none of it really coheres. There’s the feeling of an attempt at starry-eyed 1975-core that goes punctured by the stuttering, too-loud drum pattern in the verses, and the exhilarated swell of the pre-chorus anticipates an anthemic hook that never arrives, short-changing the listener with a shadow of a proper melody. Vocalist Zach Grace breathes out half-complete thoughts as if reluctant to commit to lyrics coherent enough to be meaningfully analysed. It’s ironic that “Ley Lines” ends up feeling so aimless.

Katie Gill: You gotta give Fueled by Ramen credit: That label has found its sound. I’m certain I’ve heard some version of this song from the label before, both recently and way back in the late 2000s. And because I have an embarrassing amount of nostalgia for that genre, I find myself liking this song instead of finding it derivative. Shine on, teenage girls for whom this song is blatantly the target audience. Go put this on your Raven Cycle fanmix.

Alfred Soto: There’s an audience for ringing guitar rock playing these lines, if not ley lines. I’m not it.

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6 Responses to “Flor – Ley Lines”

  1. Ian – snap! Also good point that it is more specifically the last couple of Mew albums

  2. I don’t know whether to feel attacked or flattered by the heading…Maybe both??

  3. it definitely isn’t an attack!

  4. I read it just as an acknowledgement that all the writers here sort of came up with different artists to mention (as well as FbR also getting mentioned). Honestly feel like there’s a generational divide with the Mew comparisons… which is obvious to me now but they’re also not a band I was even aware of during the mid-2000s since I was too busy listening to bands like…. Lydia

  5. :o Nice to know; also, I never really thought about the phenomenon of how labels encapsulate a certain sound. Now that I think about it, it makes complete sense, but I guess I was under the impression they were — for the most part — a bit too diverse to be pinned down (ex: how XL has artists with sounds from Adele to Låpsley).

  6. Cheers, Iain! Honestly these days their last two records are my favourite, but if this sounded more like Frengers-era Mew I might actually be more inclined to enjoy it? idk