John Floreani – ‘sin’

By Gem Rogers

When Trophy Eyes front man John Floreani first started releasing music as a solo project under his Little Brother moniker back in 2014, the acoustic emo stylings of EP ‘Terrace’ couldn’t have been much further from the thrashing hardcore-influenced releases of his band at that time. Five years is a long time in anyone’s book, though, and as Trophy Eyes have grown into an ever-greater version of themselves, so too has Floreani – and that evolution has led to ‘sin’, his first full length solo release.

There’s something both interesting and comforting about opening an album called ‘sin’ with a song that is inherently about acceptance and a kind of forgiveness as ‘Oh Brother’, the second single to be released from the album, addresses the deeply personal subject of family. In a world where we are often told that family comes above all else – “they say blood is thicker than water” – the sense of relief found in this song, in letting go of a fraught and damaging familial relationship, is tangible, set to a lulling acoustic guitar and acting as the perfect introduction to the honesty of Floreani’s lyricism.

While ‘Oh Brother’ shows immediate and significant improvement on his earlier solo material, particularly vocally, it still represents what feels like a natural progression from the ‘Terrace’ EP. Second track ‘Don’t Wait Up’, however, dips suddenly into tingling pop melodies that for anyone else might seem unpredictable – but for someone as unbound by expectations as Floreani, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. It’s a sign of things to come, too; ‘sin’ does exactly as it pleases, when it pleases, with a whole host of styles coming out to play over its relatively short half hour run time.

We’re guided through the eight tracks by Floreani’s deep, soothing tones over gentle acoustic guitars and a sprinkling of keys, strings, and synth, with lead single ‘Echoes’ a shining diamond among the gems. Blissfully transcendent, it is overflowing with imagery that courses through every vein, exploding before your eyes like an old film reel as the orchestral chorus swells to life. If ever there was going to be a song perfect for wistfully staring out of rainy windows and conjuring up your own starring role in a music video, this is it (and we’re definitely not the only ones who do this). It leads directly into the triumphant staccato strings of ‘Cocaine’, reminiscent of The Verve’s classic ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and set in contrast to the largely one-note vocal melody, before dropping off at the enchanting ‘Ugly Love’. Resplendent and drizzled generously with hand claps, it feels like pure, unadulterated joy in pop form and is one of the brightest tracks on the album.

With a brief foray into the spirit of Johnny Cash with ‘Repent’ – in the reflective, conversational lyrics, the sombre pace, and Floreani’s voice at its most earthy – the album rounds off in spectacular, heartrending form with third single ‘Before The Devil Knows I’m Dead’, and ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Either’. One of Floreani’s greatest strengths lies in his ability to shine a light on the darkest parts of our lives and minds, exposing the beauty in mortality – and nowhere is it better demonstrated than on these two tracks. ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Either’ in particular is a cry of support and solidarity, with harmonies coming together in a chorus that is filled not only with sadness, but also with hope.

Cathartic, relatable, and powerful, ‘sin’ is an album that examines our failings and the quest for our own form of redemption, fuelled by love and hope. Floreani ensnares our emotions and carries us along on his journey so that it is our journey too; at times overwhelming, but forever moving forward in our own flawed, but ever improving, ways. There is a depth to the honesty and seeming simplicity of this music that elicits pure emotion and connection – and with a skill to capture images and feelings in words in a way that few others can, it’s to be hoped that ‘sin’ is only the beginning of this new voyage for John Floreani.

GEM ROGERS

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