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Florence + The Machine Provides Heart Stopping Soul-Indie Fusion

Stephanie DePrez | Thursday, February 18, 2010

Britain is on the rise, and Florence Welch is riding the wave over. With a sound organically grown from Etta James and Imogen Heap, Florence + The Machine’s debut “Lungs” hits like a ton of bricks somewhere in the impossible fusion of soul and indie pop.
Welch, a 23-year-old from London, has been blowing up U.K. charts for the past year (fueled by the BBC) and has finally crossed the pond. Her band’s first release is not similar enough to any one artist to be placed in a genre. Instead, “Lungs” manages to bring out the soul-power of fellow Brit Adele to the layered orchestration of Frou Frou (with less electro-pops and more harp). Plus, the lyrics are not too cryptic to require a microscope and thesaurus to decipher, whilst remaining odd enough to deserve multiple plays.
The album opens with “Dog Days Are Over,” a bait-and-switch that begins like an Ingrid Michelson song and ends up in a Gospel anthem, complete with clap track.
Then comes “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” the album stand out. The moving soul melody is littered with punches of choir backing, as it dances precariously between an intimate revelation and a blow out proclamation. By the time the chorus hits, it’s become hypnotic and begs to see the fairy tale finished. “Midas is king and he holds me so tight/And turns me to gold in the sunlight,” belts Welch, and one wonders who Midas is until, of course, the bridge comes around, the orchestra drops out and suddenly you couldn’t care less about Midas because the choir is chanting “Raise it up!” with such devotion that you want to chuck your shoes and go dance in the snow. By the time the last chorus — coated with harp glissandos — cycles through, you’re hooked, and there’s no going back.
“Kiss With a Fist” is the most unique on the album. This pure punk-rock tribute to PJ Harvey contains tongue-in-cheek lyrics set to bare drums and electric guitar. “You smashed a plate over my head/Then I set fire to our bed,” drawls Welch, with the fierceness of Lily Allen. This not-breakup song (“A kiss with a fist is better than none”) is so delightfully awful that it even landed on the soundtrack of the Megan Fox movie, “Jennifer’s Body.” Beware, though, because it contains all the elements of a song you won’t be able to get out of your head.
Florence + The Machine provides a wealth of samples for one new to their indie Gospel anthem. “Drumming Song” is a heart-racing track that once again manages to reconcile funk and edgy rock that is “Louder than sirens/Louder than bells/Sweeter than heaven/And hotter than hell.” The lyrical simplicity that Welch uses provides enough punch to get the point across but is so straightforward that one feels comfortable belting them right along with her.
The album takes a breather for the oddity “My Boy Builds Coffins.” Here the lyrics really do take front and center, as Welch calmly explains the profession of her beau. “He’s made one for himself, one for me too/And one of these days he’s gonna make one for you.” The placid tone still manages to end in a choir anthem.
“Hurricane Drunk” sounds the most like what one would expect to hear on the streets of London. This post break up soul number has a chorus worthy of Kelly Clarkson, but unlike Clarkson doesn’t induce fervent jumping — just swaying hips.
“Lungs” ends with a cover of “You’ve Got the Love” that Florence + The Machine takes to appropriate heights. The track, originally done by Gospel singer Candi Stanton, becomes a theatrical ovation (and might induce some jumping).
Overall, “theatrical” is a very good term for “Lungs.” Welch barrels through everything she takes on, layering synth and orchestra at will, with an artistic recklessness that threatens to blow over any bystanders not keen enough to brace themselves.