Florence + The Machine – Lungs (2009)

As I noted in my last semi-review: Florence + The Machine‘s Lungs is exquisite. Here are my thoughts about this beauty of a record. :)

florence-and-the-machines-lungLungs begins with the 2008 single “Dog Days Are Over.” It starts off calmly enough with plucked harp strings… then some hand claps… then the “run fast for your mother” bit comes along and BOOM! Well, that’s the first, smaller BOOM of the song. Wait for the moment after the gentle piano interlude, when the BOOM! really gets ya. “Happiness hit her” indeed! The jolt at 3:05, when the song quiets down then explodes back into the chorus, is the final brilliant BOOM! of “Dog Days Are Over.” The album, by the way, is not short on BOOM! moments. It is a testament to Florence’s great skill, because though the BOOM!s are many, they never feel unwelcome or dull.

Dreamy sounds kick “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” off. Every section of the song is delicious, especially the “here I am, a rabbit-hearted girl” bridge, and that lush, Enya-like “ahhh-ah” right before the chorus. And of course, I love that there’s a potential Kate Bush reference in the line “I must become a lionhearted girl.” :) This is really an epic little tune, with its references to Midas, lambs and knives, and water turning from blue to red. I absolutely love the final, weary “this is a gift…” The next track, “I’m Not Calling You A Liar,” didn’t really appeal to me on first listen. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just doesn’t hit me the same way the rest of the songs do. However, I do love the creepy imagery of the lyrics – “there’s a ghost in my mouth… wraps itself around my tongue as it softly speaks.” The harp-accompanied “there but for the grace of God go I” part of the song is lovely, too.

Florence%2B%2BThe%2BMachine%2Bflorence%2B%2BgloveOh my goodness. “Howl.” Can you say “intense”? Everything about this song is fantastic. The pounding percussion and squealing strings pulse around Florence’s primal wail. Make sure to brace yourself for 2:16 – 2:30, especially the point where the music drops out and Florence cries “I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hollow groooound!” Sends a shiver down my spine, I can tell you. The song concludes with just Florence’s voice, on the word “ground.” Beautiful.

I’m reminded of Siobhan Donaghy’s Ghosts album when it comes to the next track, “Kiss With A Fist.” Just as “12 Bar Acid Blues” sounded great but didn’t quite fit with the rest of Ghosts, so “Kiss With A Fist”‘s punky garage rock sits awkwardly amidst the raw regality of the rest of Lungs. This one particular guitar lick towards the end of “Kiss With A Fist” brings to mind the nifty ending of Queen’s “It’s Late,” when the band has a short freak-out and Freddie’s voice and Brian May’s guitar squeal before returning to the main melody. OK, so anyways…! “Kiss With A Fist” is fab for what it is, but it’s just not a perfect fit with the rest of the album.

Now, the next track fits the album perfectly. Ghostly guitar leads us into the tale of the “Girl With One Eye.” Eerie, kinda gross (“I took a knife and cut out her eye”), and rather brilliant, really. The “I said hey, girl with one eye” refrain is addictive. There are 3 BOOM! moments to treasure in this song: at 2:22, when Florence’s voice soars over the erupting song; 2:45 and its sharp intake of breath; and 2:57’s “I said! [BANG!] Girl with one eye…”. You just can’t get any better than those wonderfully jarring instances.

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Noel Fielding and Florence

“Drumming,” the current Flo single, is next. The percussion at the beginning reminds me of the beats from the training montage in The Mighty Boosh’s first series episode, “Killeroo.” (There’s Florence glaring at Noel Fielding for some reason, in the picture at left.) Anyways! Now that’s out of the way, “Drumming” is one of those songs that is more of an experience than just a tune. Such wonderful, evocative lyrics, like how the “drumming noise inside my head” is described as being “such an almighty sound.” It’s almost a couple different songs in one, and yet it works so well. Excellent stuff! More excellence comes in the form of “Between Two Lungs,” one of the less heavy songs on the album. Beautiful lyrics about “the breath that passed from you to me” float upon jaunty piano and jangly beats. A magical little song.

Speaking of magic – “Cosmic Love”! This song is out of this world (lol). Florence booms “the stars, the moon, they have all been blown out,” and that’s just what it feels like when you listen to “Cosmic Love.” Another “experience” song, really. The next track, “My Boy Builds Coffins,” made an impression on me on my first listen to the album. It just sounds like it’s an old classic; the lyrics are simple but compelling and the music is the most restrained on the album. It’s a fabulous little gem of a tune. And then comes “Hurricane Drunk”! I love the joyfully resigned chorus to this: “I’m going out! I’m gonna drink myself to death!” Florence makes being down in the dumps a delightful notion with “Hurricane Drunk”: the music has a skip in its step and I imagine would be fun to see performed live.

Florence%2B%2BThe%2BMachine%2B%2Bjesse%2Bjenkins%2BphotographyThe album technically closes with “You’ve Got The Love” (such a fun cover of the Candi Staton song), but from what I’ve read it’s supposed to be a bonus track, so for me the album really ends with “Blinding.” And what an ending. The menacing harp motif, the awesome atmospheric touches, the lyrics: “no more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone,” “no more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in the garden” (what’s up with Florence and the death-y imagery?!), and “all the walls of dreaming, they were torn wide open” are but a few of the lusciously morbid lyrics in “Blinding.” My favorite thing about the song is that it ends with a sharp breath. I mean, I love all of the song, but I adore that it ends so dramatically.

If you haven’t listened to Lungs yet, go forth and listen! :)

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Florence and Hadise

Quick health update: My eye is still wonky. I can see a little better out of it, but it’s still not right. My ophthalmologist is erring on the side of caution so I’ve had a second MRI, and am awaiting an appointment with a neurologist. So I’m sort of playing the waiting game at the moment. I’m kinda nervous, but very optimistic that things will turn out OK. :)

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Florence Welch

I haven’t felt up to reviewing since this started, but I’ve got to write about two albums that I’ve absolutely adored recently:
Florence And The Machine‘s new album Lungs, released on July 6 (and on July 7 here in the US), is really, really good. I had first taken notice of Florence on XO’s Middle Eight, when the video of “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” was posted. I think I had listened to a track or two of Florence’s before, but whatever I listened to didn’t really make much of an impression on me. The lush, ornate “Rabbit Heart,” however, did. Even so, I still didn’t pay a great deal of attention to Florence And The Machine after that exposure to “Rabbit Heart.” I have no idea why; I guess I just wanted to wait until I heard the actual album until I decided if I loved Florence’s music or not.

It turns out that Lungs is exquisite. Florence has a powerful, booming voice, a beautiful voice that invites comparisons to other strong vocalists like Grace Slick but holds a tone and quality that belongs solely to Florence. Her regal yet somehow raw sound finds its inspiration in Kate Bush’s darker moments, Stevie Nicks’ most ethereal turns, and in the folk-rock of the 1970s. I may be off the mark here, but I think there’s also a slight Enya influence, at least in the layering of the vocals – and especially in that delicious “aaah-ah” right before the chorus in “Rabbit Heart.” Florence’s lyrics range from the epic (“Howl”) to the domestic (“Kiss With A Fist”) and everything in between. I love how it feels like you’re paging through a great big dusty old leather-bound book of fairytales when you listen to the album.

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Hadise

And now on to Eurovision hopeful Hadise, who released an OK album (titled Hadise) with some awesome singles last year (“My Man and the Devil on His Shoulder” in particular). This year, after giving us the addictive Eurovision entry “Dum Tek Tek,” Hadise came out with what I think is my favorite pop album of the year so far, Fast Life. The electro/urban-inflected pop songs are all worthy of being released as singles but work together as an album, too. A testament to how good music can make you feel better even in the weirdest times: on my way to my first MRI two weeks ago, something I’d never had done before and was nervous about, I listened to Fast Life on a whim and found myself loving it in spite of my anxious self!

Like I said, every song could be a hit single, but my favorites are “On Top,” a fierce attack on a girl trying to get with Hadise’s guy (how very dare she!), “Hero,” a lovely downtempo track about how “being sad made me strong,” and the wonderfully catchy “Supernatural Love.”

Proper reviews of Lungs and Fast Life are coming, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on these albums and update this poor blog! :)