Florence and the Machine
out July 6th
"Happiness hit her like a train on a track, coming towards her stuck still no turning back," Florence Welch whispers above the lulling ukulele of "Dog Days Are Over," the opening track off of her first full-length release. And before anyone can say much of anything, the ropes have been let loose, the horses are in full gait, and Welch's wild shouts and yelps lead the raging pack's charge until there's no turning back: "Leave all your loving, your loving behind / You cant carry it with you if you want to survive."
July 6 marks the official UK release of Lungs, the aptly-titled debut of a fresh, exciting troupe from England known as Florence & The Machine, fronted by a witchy chanteuse that coos much sweeter and cries out much louder than the vast landscape of dull, auto-tuned drones currently on the scene.
Florence Welch is a voice to be reckoned with; the she-beast of "Howl" and the lion-hearted girl of "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)." She tears through octaves and rips into full-throated shouts without ever drawing a breath. She is of her own brand stylistically, although armed with a quirky quivering reminiscent of Kate Bush, the bounding howl of Björk, and perhaps most glaringly, the uncompromising female rock-chic edge of legends including Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.
Lucky for us, the triple-punch production behind this album proves to be rooted in equally diverse sounds: There's James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, Paul Epworth of Sam Sparro and Kate Nash fame, and UK musician Steve Mackey, responsible for tracks off of M.I.A. and Marianne Faithfull's albums.
It's surprising then that a cast and crew of such diverse sounds could produce an album like Lungs. After all—and let's prepare for the possible punny outcome here—Lungs is fluid. It's an incredibly cohesive production as a whole, sounding like one long session recorded from the dingy confines of a medieval dungeon.
If there's anything that comes to mind in thinking about this album, it's texture. Each track is carefully constructed from top to bottom with pounding instruments, layered vocals, and fiery spirit and emotion. It is, as Florence might say, a beast.
While the singles have all been good, the album tracks are arguably even better. "Howl," bursts forth with the kind of animalistic energy you'd expect from a song titled as such, while "Girl With One Eye" merges a confident guitar swagger with vindictive lyricism; a combination so murderous it ought to have Quentin Tarantino giddily jumping up and down like a schoolboy before shoving it into the soundtrack of his next gore-fest.
But "Girl With One Eye" isn't the only song dripping blood from the speakers. In fact, basically every track does: "Kiss With A Fist" morphs the act of domestic abuse into a balls-to-the-wall garage rock ode, "My Boy Builds Coffins" reeks of ill-willed premonitions, and "I'm Not Calling You A Liar" sees an ex-flame in the form of a scorned ghostly apparition. Even the album's soaring ballad "Cosmic Love" revels in a kind of Tim Burton-esque embrace of romantic macabre: "A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes / I screamed aloud, as it tore through them, and now it's left me blind."
In a recent post discussing the story behind each track off the album, Walsh had this to say regarding "Dog Days Are Over": A lot of people have said they think it’s about the Apocalypse. Or freedom. And someone said it was about the recession. But to me it just signifies being free, in that I’d made music in a way I’d never made it before.
Swamped in a sea of press releases from labels boldly proclaiming their artists to be the next Depeche Mode-meets-Madonna-meets-Queen (and always end up sounding like Cascada in one way or another), it's beyond refreshing to hear an artist who couldn't be further from being considered an imitation act. Florence & The Machine's Lungs is honest music making, real music made through creative innovation for the new age.
Bottom Line: cadaverous, magical, and anything but predictable. The pop album to beat in 2009, and an artist to watch for years to come. Florence & The Machine is the future of pop music. Are you prepared?
Because Lungs hasn't been released in the US yet, we have a couple of options. 1) US readers can enter to win Florence and the Machine's A Lot of Love, A Lot of Blood 12" EP or 2) US Readers can enter to win "Kiss With A Fist" and "Dog Days Are Over" both on a 7" record (two separate singles).
To enter leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, Florence and the Machines, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until July 26th
Bradley Stern is a contributor here at Pretty Much Amazing. Be sure to check out his blog MuuMuse for his daily musings on pop music.