She’s gone country! When Francie Medosch started Florry as a teen, it was a bedroom indie rock project inspired by late 20th century indie-rock pillars like riot grrrl, twee, and Sonic Youth. The music on 2018’s Brown Bunny showed great promise — enough to be distributed by Priests’ great Sister Polygon label — but things got properly intriguing, if significantly less cohesive, on 2021’s Big Fall. Released on 12XU, the boutique imprint run by Matador’s Gerard Cosloy, the album grafted everything from honky-tonk pedal steel to club-ready retro keyboards into Florry’s DIY rock foundation. That one was a transitional release, spurred on by COVID isolation and the usual coming-of-age explorations. The metamorphosis continued as pandemic restrictions loosened and Medosch built out a band for live shows, evolving Florry into the formidable roots-rock enterprise heard on LP3.
The Holey Bible is out this week on the quietly excellent Dear Life Records, which recently gave us MJ Lenderman’s Boat Songs among other gems. (Notice how this band keeps pulling endorsements from some of the coolest labels in the underground?) It’s the best Florry album by a wide margin, filled with smokin’, rambunctious country-rock as filtered through the minds of Philadelphia indie kids. Just as you can find Philly on an actual highway between New Jersey and North Carolina, this record could soundtrack a truckstop bar on the imaginary road between Pinegrove’s twangy grad-school emo and Wednesday’s country-fried shoegaze. Florry don’t truly sound like either one of those bands, though. They’ve developed a sound all their own, rollicking and raw but still laced with a bit of Medosch’s old indie-pop intimacy. Think of them as the Band for the Bandcamp era.
That comparison is highly imperfect too, if only because, with Medosch’s pinched yowl and journal-entry lyrics at the center of the storm, this is no multi-headed songwriting operation. But if they aren’t exactly a collective, they’ve definitely become a unit. The Holey Bible saunters with a chemistry and charisma previously unheard on Florry records, shifting the project’s vibe from confessional to communal. The band is deceptively tight in a way that suits this music — that is, they often sound like they might collapse into a pile of laughter — and the vocals are so piercingly catchy that it almost wouldn’t matter if the words weren’t on point.
Speaking of: Throughout the album, Medosch merges her usual personal storytelling with all kinds of Americana tropes, from the fluorescent glow of CVS after dark to the mythic landscapes sketched out on “Cowgirl In A Ditch”: “Out on American highways is where I wanna walk/ Whenever I feel homesick I lift my thumb to God/ ‘Cause on American highways is where I wanna be/ Staring into the headlights of angels takin’ me from the streets.” Most often the focus is wild vulnerability, usually bated-breath romantic but occasionally trained on other kinds of longing. Hints of doubt, fragility, and tenderness abound, yet the overall mood is jubilant. The stated purpose of Florry’s latest permutation is to overflow with hope and joy as an act of defiance against the prevailing malaise. They’ve succeeded on that front; my main takeaway from this album is how much fun a Florry show must be.
“Drunk And High” was chosen as both the lead single and opening track for good reason. A standout among standouts, the song works as proof of concept for this version of Florry. At the top, over a hard-bobbing rhythm and a chord progression that could be described as saloon power-pop, livewire licks intermingle with graceful fiddle. Once the track settles into its groove, Medosch and Victoria Rose wail in harmony about a messy encounter in the depths of the night. “Pull the car over, I gotta puke/ You’re no good at driving high” stands as one of the great album introductions of 2023, but the heart of the song arrives with the chorus: “Hey good lookin’, didn’t I tell you you can’t hold my hand/ Yeah, I told you last night when you were too drunk to understand.” The music bounds along with a playful, ebullient energy; when it ends, after just over two minutes, the urge to go back and start again is almost irrepressible.
But then you’d miss the rest of the record, which keeps the party going strong for another 45 minutes or so. The ramshackle Camaro rock of “Hot Weather” satisfies the proverbial urge for more cowbell, while the harmonica-blasted “Cowgirl Giving” wobbles along like Blonde On Blonde if it was released on K Records. The band glides along like Wilco at their most wistful on the lovestruck “ILYILY,” giving spotlight moments to Will Henriksen’s fiddle, Sam Silbert’s pedal steel, and John Murray’s guitar. They come off like a gang of buddies even when they pare back the ruckus on the cowgirl trot “Song For My Art,” even more so when the full ensemble swings back in to close out the record with multi-part epic “From Where You Are.” Medosch’s final words are “Maybe I’ll see you again,” and yeah, I’ll definitely be looking forward to my next encounter with Florry.
The Holey Bible is out 8/4 via Dear Life Records.