Macintosh Plus – FLORAL SHOPPE
For many, FLORAL SHOPPE is the vaporwave album. Macintosh Plus is what made Roman busts and Diana Ross the face of vaporwave in much of the popular consciousness, to the extent that major networks such as tumblr and MTV would copy this exact “aesthetic” style (to the chagrin of many), to say nothing of its ubiquitous presence in Internet communities such as reddit and 4chan. This crazy album is what happens when AOR, progressive electronica, funk, and a healthy dose of Portland irony get thrown into a smelter and painted in pink and black. It’s one of very few works of art where the word “seminal”1 may be used correctly: FLORAL SHOPPE, for better or for worse, literally created a substantial portion of modern Internet culture – and it did it by contorting things that already existed.
FLORAL SHOPPE‘s memetic quality is somewhat of an accident. Back in 2011, this kind of perverse ECCOJAMS approach was not nearly as common as may be belied by the contemporary slog of Macintosh Plus wannabes clogging up Bandcamp. Vaporwave was the dark ambient of 骨架的, the MIDI freak-out of James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual, the lo-fi fun of Midnight Television, and the pseudo-chillwave of SURFING. It wasn’t even fairly representative of Xavier’s discography; which by then consisted of releases as diverse as the noise music of fuji grid tv, the video game soundtrack edits of LASERDISC VISIONS, and the chillwave/IDM of early Vektroid and the even earlier Vektordrum project. Xavier was an accomplished producer by this point: despite still being a teenager by FLORAL SHOPPE‘s release, she’d already put out an enormous body of work stretching well into the mid-2000s. In comparison to these, FLORAL SHOPPE was an outlier.
So what made it so big? Well for one, it’s catchy as hell. “リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー” gets beat to death by the myriad of covers, parodies, and tributes, but it’s a damn fun track, and that slow synth progression is an earworm like no other. “ライブラリ” is legitimately sing-alongable; that “you need a hero” chorus is nearly as addictive as “it’s all in your hands.”2 New age clicks like “ECCOと悪寒ダイビング” came straight from new wave hits like Dancing Fantasy, and even Jamie Foxx makes a seductive appearance on “海底.” FLORAL SHOPPE mocks everything by embodying the logical extreme of self-aggrandizement: vapid “savior” love songs, soulless consumer culture, eye-vomit aesthetics, and irony for irony’s sake. FLORAL SHOPPE was carefully constructed, and many of its copycats fail to recognize that in their attempts to capture its sardonic attitude.
Despite its goofiness, it’s also a surprisingly experimental work, and it’s here where FLORAL SHOPPE shines and finds its enduring appeal after five years – a comparably long time in Internet culture. The first four tracks are good times ECCOJAMS, but then there are songs like “地理” and “数学” that take new wave music to a Stepford Wives extreme, repeating each of the previously-silly synth loops to an unsettling extent with no shortage of filters and EQ passes. Listeners who haven’t heard more than “リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー” may be taken aback at how weird and melancholic this album actually is. Late-album highlight “月” reprises either track’s strangeness with another hypnotic earworm, this time courtesy of Zapp.
FLORAL SHOPPE has run its course as the standard-bearer of vaporwave: there are plenty of albums, labels, and artists who make music with little to no association with the “aesthetics” of Macintosh Plus. Albums that emulate its busts, gaudy pink background, skyline photo,3 and abuse of poor Diana Ross are rightly called out as shallow and as attempts to follow in the footsteps of a tired style that’s no longer relevant.4 Vaporwave has moved on from FLORAL SHOPPE, but it remains a fond part of the experience for listeners old and new. After all, it’s one of the “first listen” vaporwave albums for a reason. FLORAL SHOPPE is one of the most singularly influential albums in modern electronic music, and it’s more than just a meme.
1. ブート – (3:24)5
2. リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー – (7:20)6
3. 花の専門店 – (3:55)7
4. ライブラリ – (2:43)8
5. 地理 – (4:46)9
6. ECCOと悪寒ダイビング – (6:42)10
7. 数学 – (6:54)11
8. 外ギン AVIATION – (1:10)12
9. て – (2:16)13
10. 月 – (6:14)14
11. 海底 – (2:18)15
2How many of y’all heard it as “it’s all in your head”?
3… which hints at FLORAL SHOPPE‘s thematic resemblance to Xavier’s esc 不在 project.
4A particularly noteworthy example is FLORAL SHOPPE 2 by The Darkest Future, which took shots at ▣世界から解放され▣, a broken transmission album by INTERNET CLUB.
5Japanese translation: “Booting”
6Japanese translation: “Lisa Frank 420 / Modern computing”
7Japanese translation: “Flower shoppe”
8Japanese translation: “Library”
9Japanese translation: “Geography”
10Japanese translation: “Chill Divin’ with ECCO”
11Japanese translation: “Mathematics”
12Japanese translation: “Foreign Banks (Aviation)”
13Japanese translation: “Te”
14Japanese translation: “Moon”
15Japanese translation: “Seabed”