Monday, December 26, 2011

Florence and the Machine: Lungs

Lungs by Florence and the Machine Original Release Date: July 7, 2009 Release Date: July 7, 2009 Label: Universal Records Copyright: (C) 2009 Universal Island Records Ltd. A Universal Music Company. Record Company Required  Total Length: 46:13
"Happiness hit her like a train on a track/Coming towards her stuck still no turning back/She hid around corners and she hid under beds/She killed it with kisses and from it she fled..."

Florence and the Machine is one of those little bands that seeps in under the pop radar, and becomes a sensation based on pure talent. And Florence Welch and Co. produce a solid debut, "Lungs," that blends delicate polished instrumentals and different genres -- there's little splatters of pop, punk and soul woven together, and cemented in place by Welch's lovely voice.

It kicks off with the plucked intro of "Dog Days Are Over," with Welch's sweet voice singing about "Happiness hit her like a bullet in the head/Struck from a great height by someone who should know better than that." While it starts off as soft, ethereal pop, the melody is swathed in eruptions of orchestral pop-rock -- it gets loud'n'catchy, with Welch yelling, "The doooog days are OVER-ER/the dooooog days are ALL DONE!" She continues the high note with "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)," a scintillatingly colorful melody that sounds like a thunderstorm in a flower garden.

After that she unleashes a bunch of other great songs: the soulful "I'm Not Calling You A Liar," the urgent piano-pop of "Howl," the wandering twangy "Girl With One Eye," the bouncy wistful "Between Two Lungs," and the sweetly macabre "My Boy Builds Coffins." An especially fun one is "Kiss With A Fist," a blazing punky tune that celebrates rough'n'passionate relationships ("You hit me once, I hit you back/you gave a kick, I gave a slap/you crashed a plate over my head/and I set fire to our bed!").

But Welch and her revolving-door band really shine when the music overflows into a steady river of fiery rock'n'roll, wrapped in twisting gossamer synth and soaring rich vocals. "Howl," the hymnlike "Drumming" and the bleak "Hurricane Drunk" all fit into this category -- and these are absolutely stunning songs, if not as immediately accessible as the catchier tunes. Florence and the Machine has a pretty unique sound -- there's a lot of punky rock'n'roll, a spattering of pop's catchiness, and some jazzy overtones woven into a few of the songs.

As debut albums go, this is a pretty spectacular one, with a distinctive flavour that sounds like little else in modern music -- the closest comparison that comes to mind would be if Joanna Newsom formed a punk-rock band and went for pop stardom. In particular, Welch has a very pretty voice -- it's a little wavery and girlish, but she sculpts it into a flickering, roaring presence in the louder songs.

And she has a knack for dark, evocative lyrics ("Louder than sirens, louder than bells/sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell!") with a quirky edge ("He's made [a coffin] for himself/One for me too/One of these days he'll make one for you"). There are a few lines that need some smoothing out, but not badly enough to distract.

And the instrumentation from The Machine is a gorgeous accompaniment -- lots of rich, swirling instrumentals and straight-ahead rock'n'roll, usually depending on Robert Ackroyd's strong electric guitar and Christopher Lloyd Hayden's solid drumming. Isabella Summers wraps the album in gossamer-soft synth, and Tom Monger adds to the ethereal edge with a harp -- it also helps give it a more classical sound, rather than straight rock-pop. Florence and the Machine's debut "Lungs" really shows why this band has been getting so much attention across the pond -- it's passionate, eclectic and a lovely piece of work. And it sounds like they'll only get better.

1 comment:

meandmythinkingcap said...

Good one. You have good taste