Shay Obray | Flowers | Crickets Records

Local Review: Shay Obray – Flowers

Local Music Reviews

Shay Obray

Crickets Records
Street: 05.19
Shay Obray = Hayley Williams + Olivia Rodrigo + Kacey Musgraves

Utah-based artist Shay Obray’s debut album, Flowers is a must-listen for the summer. It’s hard to believe this is Obray’s first album because, after my designated car listen, I was beyond impressed by the artistry and polish demonstrated here. She’s got her voice and songwriting dialed and features a versatility throughout the album’s genre experimentation. I’m certain that if all goes well, this is just the first installment of a soon-to-be substantial discography. 

As the title indicates, each of the album’s 12 songs is named after a flower (with the exception of penultimate track “We Forget,” which references the earlier song “Forget Me Not”). Obray writes in her Instagram post about the album’s release, “We’ve been so precious about the track list and the story. It’s very much intended to be listened to from track one.” Hear that, folks? NO SHUFFLING! There are almost-seamless instrumental transitions between songs, and when listened to chronologically, you can hear some of the references to other songs on the album. In “Violet,” Obray sings “I’m no longer hazel,” referencing “Hazel” cued earlier. “Rose,” the album’s opener, introduces the project: “These flowers, they’re begging me to write them,” sings Obray. There’s plenty of little easter-eggs, which makes listening to Flowers like walking through a museum exhibit

As to be expected from a young artist singing about her coming-of-age experiences, Flowers features a healthy amount of angst, especially in “Rose,” “Babies Breath” and “Violet.” Lots of this emotion is tied to revelations about past loves and relationships. In the pre-released single “Babies Breath,” Obray sings: “I’m 16, and I say that I love you / But I know in a year I’m going to say that I love him.” This song is more distorted than others with heavy electric guitar and strained vocals. I felt a stirring of my own 16-year-old self of being called out. The drums keep a racing pace, making the track feel like it belongs on a playlist with Olivia Rodrigo and Paramore. “Violet” also picks up the pace, and the sound of trumpets is unique here. “I may be a rebel without a cause … / And maybe my youth is already lost / So what if it is?” sings Obray, taking on a spirited attitude that we all felt as a stubborn teen.

Prior to Flowers, Obray had only released a single in 2018 titled “If You’re Hearing This.” She’s grown musically since then, but the roots are undeniably there. “If You’re Hearing This” could have found a place on Flowers alongside similarly acoustic tracks such as “Iris” and “We Forget.” Her voice hasn’t changed much and can be mostly characterized as a beautifully consistent vibrato that’s almost Post Malone–like. But, she incorporates new songwriting techniques in Flowers—a larger variety of genres and instruments, as well as some distorted background vocals that give the illusion of a crowd or a group of people whispering. All these intentional choices contribute to the polished, detail-oriented finished product; you can sense her perfectionism through the songs. 

My personal favorite song, “Rose,” is also the project’s introduction. You can tell Obray is singing from her current self, reflecting on the ways she’s changed. “Do we really grow up? / Or do we only grow old? / Because my old shoes don’t fit the same … hair’s cut and my style’s changed,” she sings. And yet, she’s only 18 here and there’s much more growing up to come. She knows this and addresses the knowledge of a future self: “Will I ever grow up? I hope that I only grow old.” In these questions, Obray holds the final notes and showcases the power in her voice. She creates an elevated level of emotion, almost a pleading cry as she sets us up for the stories she’s about to share. 

In contrast, album closer “Tulips” starts much slower and is more nostalgic than “Rose.” Obray sings about “how fast the years have gone,” tying in the chronologic storytelling featured throughout Flowers. Her imagery is beautiful here—lines such as “I miss your dusty summer sidewalks” and “April showers bathe your markets” indicate that she’s not talking about a person, but a place. Halfway through, the song picks up with more instrumental breaks that highlight the tight connection between band members. “Now I’m finally older,” says Obray as she sings about missing her younger self. It ends with a distant clip of someone talking, where you can make out the words “that was fun.” She’s right. Flowers is a fun, 45-minute glimpse into Obray’s own bildungsroman (and maybe even our own). 

On Flowers, Obray knows what she’s doing, where she’s going and how she’s going to get there—good luck to anyone standing in her way! You can stream Flowers anywhere and follow Obray on Instagram @shayobray to stay in the know about more of her upcoming shows and releases. –Katie Hatzfeld

Read more reviews of standout Utah indie albums:
Local Review: future.exboyfriend – FXB
Local Review: Nicole Canaan – My Own Two Hands