Flower: Hardly a Dream 12” (Profane Existence Records) Flower released the digital version of Hardly a Dream in December 2022 and it immediately took over my playlist. I was surprised how quickly and thoroughly I fell for the record because it’s pretty far outside my wheelhouse. Everyone talks about how Flower sounds like Nausea, but I haven’t spent much time with Nausea’s music, so that connection doesn’t mean much to me. I hear a lot of 80s UK crust in Flower’s sound, and while I like a lot of that stuff, it’s not like I’m going to love a band just because they do a good job of evoking that aesthetic. There’s also a slight undercurrent of New York hardcore bounce to Flower’s sound, and that’s a style that really doesn’t do much for me. On the plus side, though, I’m a big fan of the other bands Flower’s members play in; their guitarist Willow also plays in Scalpel, whose LP we put out on Sorry State, and their bassist Jack also plays in Fuckin’ Lovers and People’s Temple. Music influenced by UK crust and stenchcore is also having a bit of a moment… the style seems appropriate to this day and age that can feel grindingly bleak, and some of my favorite current bands like Rigorous Institution and Subdued also draw a lot from that sound. One thing that Flower does that might sound bad on paper is build most of their songs around similar grooves and tempos. However, rather than sounding boring, it’s hypnotic in a way that sucks me in. Hardly a Dream is one of those records that just consumes me when I put it on. While those are the elements of Hardly a Dream I responded to while I spent the winter driving around with it on repeat, now that the vinyl is here, there’s even more to love. It’s a pleasure to sit down with the thoughtful lyrics, which come at you so quickly and in such volume that it’s hard to parse without the lyric sheet’s help. Like Flower’s music, Danny’s lyrics have a lot in common with 80s UK punk, but they’re not an homage to those influences… they’re made for today. And then there’s Willow’s incredible artwork on the fold-out poster sleeve, taking cues from Nick Blinko, but also evoking the hypnotic quality of Flower’s music with its dense, meticulously inked textures. Hardly a Dream is the total package, a vital and fully realized statement that feels tailor made for the world in 2023.