No one could’ve really predicted that John Floreani’s solo endeavours would’ve begun this early. That’s not to say it was totally out of the question – there’s a long and storied history of pop-punk vocalists breaking off from their main bands for side projects and solo ventures – but with Floreani, it can feel a bit premature, especially when it doesn’t even feel as though he’s hit his peak with Trophy Eyes just yet. That being said, maybe that’s the exact reason it’s coming now; even within pop-punk, Trophy Eyes have never felt tied down by format or traditional and have regularly favoured moving in adjacent directions towards post-hardcore, and everything to come from sin thus far has seen Floreani carrying over that exact attitude to solo, singer-songwriter fare. More than most, the overall existence of this project feels an artistic extension that can’t be denied, and that can be a rarity for artists in the pop-punk sphere that’s so often dictated by regimentation.
Thus, it makes sense to completely throw away that regimentation on sin, and leave the resulting album as a fluid, ever-changing body of work that certainly highlights Floreani’s creativity, but also the flexibility of his artistic persona. This is, for all intents and purposes, a pop album, but plasticity and artifice are replaced by a ragged soul and melancholy that makes it feel like so much more. Instead, sin feels like the result of inspired and personal drive, with an artist drawing on his deepest festering impulses that simultaneously feels mournful and triumphant. All of that is condensed into an eight-song release that still manages to feel totally manageable and as slimmed-down as it needs to; that’s how much artistic malleability Floreani has, and it makes for a pretty great listen across the board.
What’s more, each of those elements is set up to coalesce at a point where it feels totally necessary for this to be a solo album. As deeply as Floreani can dig into his own turbulent thoughts and emotions with Trophy Eyes, sin feels quieter and more reflective by design, painting him as the repentant figure who knows he’s done wrong in the past and is looking to rectify his mistakes with the solemnity that this sort of inner exploration demands. What really sets it over the top is the level of detail that rings with genuine, heartbreaking desolation; a portrayal of an addictive personality on Don’t Wait Up and Cocaine might be painted with broader strokes, but in Floreani’s severing of ties with his toxic brother or the intense burden of guilt that seeps into deep concerns of faith and the afterlife on Before The Devil Knows I’m Dead, they’re played with such deathly, gaunt weight that the pathos is effectively unavoidable. Alongside Floreani’s delivery that’s frequently low and vulnerable but critically avoids wallowing in performative or melodramatic moroseness, sin feels as though it comes from a place of genuine pain and redemptive intent in almost every moment.
And while that makes the possibility of unceasing bleakness almost a dead cert, it speaks a lot to Floreani’s talents that that’s never the case here. The pop focus is noticeable but never played up to unnecessary extents, and therefore when a track like Repent leans back into ragged, Americana-flavoured murder-balladry with its jangling acoustic guitars and knells of piano, it comes as a necessary pivot within an album that has the freedom to exercise its scope but is still able to stay intimate and confined. Don’t Wait Up pulls this off perfectly, anchored in simple, solemn guitars and beats, but elevates its hook with tastefully understated waves of strings in a way that sounds absolutely gorgeous. It’s a similar case with Echoes that brings forth pop bombast in a manner reminiscent of modern Thirty Seconds To Mars if they had any concept of nuance, or the beautiful closer I Don’t Want To Be Here Either with pianos and production that’s the most opulent and cinematic Floreani has ever sounded. Just in general, sin carries itself with such an elegance and lushness that, in terms of composition, it can be difficult to fault, hitting its only real snag with the thumping percussion and gurgling synth line of Cocaine that tries to recreate an epic swell but is too easily bogged down in its own abundance of clattering layers. Even then though, it’s not exactly bad, and says a lot about the effort that’s been put into modulation and quality control that hits the same peaks as the factors that could be considered more overtly important.
It’s yet another reason why sin feels like such a worthwhile proposition at this stage in Floreani’s career. This is a passion project, pure and simple, and one fuelled by the sort of passion that’s evident of an artist who’s still besotted with the idea of making music. sin comes across as something pretty special because of that, an album that doesn’t feel as though it was solely churned out as an extra avenue to run in tandem with a bigger, more fruitful main project, but one that had to be made and subsequently serves as a very necessary extension of that main project. Those sorts of albums are exceedingly rare, but Floreani has taken his vision and knocked it out of the park here, with an enrapturing, frequently stunning listen that makes his ascent among modern pop-punk’s talismanic figures all the more justified.
For fans of: Thirty Seconds To Mars, The Neighbourhood, The Maine
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘sin’ by John Floreani is released on 7th June on Hopeless Records.