22 November 2010

Florence + The Machine, Lungs (2009): Album Review

So, Florence + The Machine released their first album in the United States in October 2009. It is currently approaching the end of November 2010, and I am just now writing an album review of it. Why might that be? Because slowly but surely, British vocalist Florence Welch and her merry backup crew have caught the attention of mindless Americans such as myself—performing on Saturday Night Live last weekend, the MTV Video Music Awards this past September, and slipping onto my playlists while DJing at the Blaze. Welch began performing in the clubs and pubs of Britain—going on to record an album with a band named Ashok, but soon branching off on her own. She released her debut record Lungs in the UK in 2009, which dominated the billboard charts and sold over 100,000 copies in the first month of release. Well, one more of those copies were sold to me via the iTunes Store only yesterday, and it’s certainly solidified itself as quite the worthwhile purchase.

The album kicks off with the most popular of their songs, “Dog Days Are Over,” which begins light and airy, but soon crescendos into a catchy, soulful powerhouse that is often stuck in my head for days on end. Welch’s unique voice is as strong as a steamroller, which is evidenced particularly in live performances of the tune (check out her rendition of the tune on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, if you’re ever bored on YouTube). “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” is another catchy tune heavy on mythical references and brimming with light-hearted sorrow. And yes, I know that makes very little sense, but while the tune is quite upbeat, lyrics begging the question, “Who is the lamb and who is the knife?” certainly turn some gloomy heads. Florence sets the mood rather dark with “I’m Not Calling You A Liar” and “Howl,” but her charismatic wails of distress and lost love keep me both glued and absolutely entranced. Especially with “Howl,” you never hear voices anymore that drip with so much passion and strength. Wow. “Kiss With A Fist” is an angsty anthem about violent relationships that ventures into the territory of clashing drums and screeching guitars not usually associated with Welch. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining listen that is featured on the soundtracks for movies like Jennifer’s Body and stores like American Eagle. Not too shabby, really. She slows it down again for the odd “Girl With One Eye.” It is moderately reminiscent of a slinky, cabaret-esque tune that seems more suited for the likes of Dresden Dolls—but honestly, Florence can do no wrong, and I thoroughly relished hearing such a different side of her. “Drumming Song” is one of the sprightliest tunes on the album—with a rousing chorus, and witty lyrics like “sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell” that further a bit of Florence’s “bad girl” persona. And please…try not to feel uplifted and utterly astounded by her vocals in “Cosmic Love,” which sound strangely angelic. Complete with a harp, too.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “Hurricane Drunk,” where she belts her heart out about the joys of drinking oneself to death—which actually sounds like it could be delightful fun with pipes like hers. Finally, Florence ends the album with the fervent and poignant ode to love, “You Got The Love,” where she pulls out all the stops—raising her voice to earth-shattering heights. But come on…what else would you really expect from her?

So yes. I love me some Cudi. I love me some Kanye. I love me some Dave. Add loving some Florence to that list. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever heard such a distinctive and thunderous voice in my mere 18 years of life—one that stirs such a wide array of emotions inside me no matter how many times I listen to it. According to the ever-reliable BBC back in April, she isn’t even close to finishing her sophomore album. I could honestly say this is the worst news I’ve gotten all day. I would definitely savor some more Florence + The Machine in my life. But for the mean time, I will take great pleasure in every second of Lungs, and advise you all to do the same.

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