If you aren’t charmed by Flo Petite’s “Soft Wrinkled Feelings,” you need to check your pulse because chances are, you aren’t living. Hailing from Hagerstown, the singer has a penchant for pop and a sleeveless soul to bare with these four songs, a pleasantly short set that does exactly what any debut EP should: Get in. Impress. Get out. Leave them wanting more.
And indeed, she does just that here, unearthing a tangible desire for any listener to hit the repeat button again … and again … and again once the experience concludes. It might be easy to find the ‘90s alt rock influence within the combination of electric guitar, punk rock aesthetic and matured lyrics, but the reality is that Petite is far more Courtney Barnett than Courtney Love — and that’s a good thing. A singer like this is no simple rock princess; rather, she’s a master artist best described as a queen-in-waiting.
It starts with the title track, a faux new-wave shoegaze-y jaunt that is loose enough to be endearing, yet tight enough to keep a listener’s attention. Is the constant kick drum truly needed? Maybe not, but it certainly drives the song forward in a danceable way that would be lacking were it not there. Plus the vocal harmonies that formulate are both fun and interesting, a true sign that Petite knows what it takes to craft an impressive pop song.
From there, it gets to the EP’s best (and shortest) moment, “AND.” Throughout it, the singer takes her cues from a different, lesser known Aussie, Sarah Blasko, as her voice lends a more adult texture to the acoustic guitar backing it up. The way she fluctuates her breath going in and out of words exudes an addictive blend of indie soul that takes everything to the next level. Besides, with a first line like “There’s a nude lady on the wall/And she doesn’t have eyes/But she’s staring at me” setting the marvelously creepy tone, you can’t help but long for hearing what happens next.
And as for what does happen next, “Cardboard Friends” offers up perhaps the most engrossing line of them all: “Making paper airplanes with your cardboard friends.” Is that a shot at a dastardly former companion? Or is it a phrase that resonates deeper? Part of the fun is not knowing. Either way, it’s dominated by a sluggish bass line and fuzzed out vocal effects that give the track a specifically ominous mood, reminding everyone that sometimes “ominous” doesn’t always have to mean “evil.”
“March” then wraps things up with an ample amount of quirk, complete with a cute xylophone and a funkier-than-you-think guitar. Adding to an already infectious performance, the singer caps off both the song and the EP with a true moment of authenticity as we hear her laugh through the final refrain, “It’s the guilt that I feel that wakes me up in the morning.” It’s fun, it’s charming, it’s lovable and it’s rooted in levity, a trick that artists three times her age could never pull off as well as she does here.
It sums up perfectly why Flo Petite is an artist to watch and why “Soft Wrinkled Feelings” is one of the best releases of the year. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, these four songs provide more promise than most anything else released ‘round these parts in 2018. They’re smart, yet accessible, catchy, yet enthralling. If you miss out on this, you’re missing out on one of the great young voices to come out of the state of Maryland in a long time.
Or, in other words, it’s the voice of a queen in the making.
*** 3 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 ***