A Vase Full of Flowers
Inherent in the gift of any bouquet is the understanding that it’s not going to last very long. But the flowers’ color and fragrance are all the more lovely for their brevity. The same could be said of Carver Arena’s third recording as Festiva, an 18-minute bedroom-punk affair that somehow makes enough space for its narrator to take a romantic walk in the park, feel regret about not being kinder, have a full-on quarantine freakout, and then split the scene with all their shit in a box. Arena must have the mind of a Tetris champion to make it all fit. But like many great records, A Vase Full of Flowers doesn’t sound like it was planned. The singer/songwriter played and sang every note themselves, resulting in a singular vision of growing agitation, underlined and bolded by the jangled-nerve energy the artist brings to every strum, plunk and wail. “Where is my money / I’m self-employed / But I can’t employ myself,” Arena bemoans on “A Tired and Irritated Protest Song,” a revved-up country shuffle that masterfully depicts the Catch-22s of paycheck-to-no-paycheck existence during this pandemic. As the narrator fantasizes about Russian-style revolutions to get through the day, Arena takes us through a series of relatable emotions: fear, anger, self-protective humor, loneliness. In less than two minutes, it’s over. But damn, it was beautiful while it lasted.