Lil T-Shirt, "Flowers/Lovers"

Lil T-Shirt Flowers Lovers.jpg

Lil T-Shirt, Flowers/Lovers
Sensitivo
★★★★☆

Full disclosure—I played in two bands with Christoffer Öberg-Runfors when I lived in Stockholm, Sweden. All I can say to defend my decision to write about his solo debut is that I am not always terribly kind about my friend's projects' music, regardless of how I feel about them as people, and I expect the same level of criticism from my friends when I sporadically send out something I've been working on.

I listen to a fair amount of pop music, and while I can admire a good deal of it, much of contemporary pop relies heavily on its veneer and formulas. It feels like many contemporary artists desperately hope one of their songs is picked up for a car commercial to maximize its profitability before that composition is lost to the pop graveyard, forgotten as easily as it once got stuck in our heads. There's nothing wrong with this, and I am sure someone out there has written a fantastic dissertation on the beauty of pop's ephemeral nature—how quickly we love and how swiftly we forget, and how we continue to consume. And don't get me wrong, I'd rather have banked some cash on a crappy pop song that was licensed for a bunch of Instagram fashion ads and be well on my way to being a washed up, washed out, long since forgotten artist than get up to go to a 9-5 any day of the goddamn week.

That said, I'm happy to report this is not at all the type of record Lil T-Shirt has made.

Flowers/Lovers uses a familiar lexicon—gauzy synth melodies, deep sub bass, trap-like stuttering percussion, and a plethora of pop's most overused terms and phrases—yet arranges them so deftly as to make poetry of the everyday. Like collage done right, the album may use what's already available, but also shows you the eye, ear, and talent of its creator, and the end results are beautiful, haunting, yet strangely hopeful.

Honestly, my only serious criticism of the album is that it's lead single "Ice"—a damn fine song that is already on two of my summer mixes—feels the slightest bit out of place, rays of sunshine amid the streetlight-bathed pop surrounding it. Opener "8" establishes a mood akin to the thoughts and emotions of someone wandering home after the afterparty, alone after an excess of stimuli, arranging and rearranging the blurred images in their head as they wait for the last bus or the first train. This tone is what you are left with when Flowers/Lovers comes to an end, and it's this "through a glass, darkly" temperament that get you to hit "play" again.

Had I been in a position to make any recommendations, I might have pushed for album standout "Flowers" to be the lead single, as it showcases everything Flowers/Lovers does so wonderfully, all while bringing in some truly lovely guitars and piano, and wrapping up in under three minutes. For anyone playing pop music bingo and mixing their metaphors at home, we in the industry call this a homerun.

And if you're as shallow and skeptical as I can be when it comes to song titles, try to let that slip with Flowers/Lovers. Album closer "Gucci / Guns"—a title that normally would make me run for the proverbial hills—feels more like 6lack sampling Mogwai's recent soundtrack work than it does with whatever almost made you dismiss it out of hand. "Bby" also performs a similar sleight of hand, subverting its syrupy text speak title to create a quiet, building, and deeply felt song. The former English student in me wants to suggest the missing letter is important, as are most things unwritten or unsaid, or perhaps that the intentional misspelling speaks to our inability to name all that we feel, or that borrowing from the ever-evolving lexicon of youth culture hints at the impermanent ways we speak of timeless emotions. Even if these are all just happy accidents, they're lovely ones.

That's the core of Flowers/Lovers—from a distance you probably think you already have the record pegged, and then you get closer and closer and it surprises you, and continues to do so. And while I'm in a privileged position to not be caught off guard by this, knowing firsthand Chris' strengths as a songwriter and his ability to carve out a territory of his own, even in a crowded room, I hope these unfolding revelations and the joys associated with them hit you right in the feels, because you deserve it.