Florence And The Machine: Lungs (Album Review)

“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 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, Welch 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 frorm labels boldly proclaiming their artists to be the next Depeche Mode-meets-Madonna-meets-Queen
(who always ends 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: Macabre, magical, and anything but predictable. The album to beat for 2009, and an artist to watch for years to come. Florence & The Machine is the future. Are you prepared?

Make sure to click here to read Florence’s discussion of each track off of Lungs.

Please enjoy the Leo Zero mix of Florence’s latest single, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” courtesy of the Neon Gold Records blog.

DL: Florence & The Machine – Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) (Leo Zero Remix)

For US Muusers, click below to preview and purchase Lungs.
Florence + The Machine - Lungs
For UK Muusers, click below to preview and purchase Lungs.
Florence + The Machine - Lungs

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