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Molly Burch - First Flower Music Album Reviews

On her second album, the Austin singer-songwriter strengthens her voice and broadens her perspective, turning her gaze from romance to a more nuanced view of her own anxieties.

“Any woman that is singing a ballad is my favorite thing,” the Austin singer-songwriter Molly Burch recently confessed when asked about her influences, listing off everyone from Billie Holiday to Dusty Springfield to Britney Spears. Fittingly, on her second album, First Flower, Burch’s voice takes center stage.

On her debut, last year’s Please Be Mine, Burch focused on the tribulations of romantic love. The songs were polished and luxurious, buoyed by jazzy instrumentals and her characteristically smoky vocals. On First Flower, it is clear that her range and control have improved. She deftly pivots from a husky smolder to billowing vibrato to the airiness of tulle blowing in the wind. The subjects of her songs have diversified, too: While she still writes about romance, she also turns inward, exploring what she desires from relationships and how her anxieties affect her interactions with other people.

Burch’s voice is so versatile that she can sing the same phrase over and over, each time giving it new meaning. On “First Flower,” her joy in a blossoming relationship is palpable as she repeats, “You are my man,” over dreamy guitar and angelic backing vocals. On album closer “Every Little Thing,” she begins on a slower and more somber note, garnering assurance and momentum every time she sings, “I’ve worn my body down,” over sparse keys and glittering harp. The way her delivery evolves, ultimately injecting every word with blazing electricity, is both a document of her exhaustion and proof of her determination.

The album’s emotional weight doesn’t come solely from Burch’s vocal delivery; her struggles with anxiety yield nuggets of lyrical wisdom too. When she ruminates, “I hope I learn from my mistakes/I hope I forgive myself one day,” on “Dangerous Places,” she imbues deceptively sunny surf-rock guitars and lackadaisical drums with introspection and self-awareness. And on album highlight “To the Boys,” she articulates a central tenet of third-wave feminism: Women need not emulate masculinity to be powerful. “I don’t need to scream to get my point across/I don’t need to yell to know that I’m the boss,” she sings, revealing the power in quietly but firmly asserting your value in spaces that historically deemed you unworthy of respect. Though the subject is soft-spokenness, her vocals ring crystal clear, demanding that people listen.

But, as with Please Be Mine, the lyrics on First Flower are sometimes too broad to feel poignant. Burch uses grandiose language to describe her relationships but never shows us the details of why those interactions are so meaningful, so her emotional revelations border on platitudes. Phrases like “I never knew love before you, my baby,” from “True Love,” don’t resonate emotionally so much as leave the listener wondering what, exactly, that grand love was like. “I just I want to do everything with you,” from “Next to Me,” is no more evocative, and before going into more detail, the song is off in another direction as Burch laments that her partner needs space.

The songs on First Flower are vibrant and warm—fine dinner party music, if not gripping enough to stop the conversation in its tracks. Still, Burch’s emotional openness and introspection are promising, and her technical skill is undeniable. Her highly versatile vocals add texture, nuance, and depth to everything she sings.

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