Friday, August 07, 2009

Album Review: Florence + The Machine - Lungs (4 / 5)

Angelically haunting would be a nice way to describe the debut album from London based--indie rock/pop singer Florence and the Machine. Layered with a despondent mood like trance, Lungs, doesn't sound as consistent as it should, but it delivers an expansive batch of weirdly but cleverly structured darkening alternative rock compositions, although there are moments of lightheartedness. Not everything on here works, but when it's on point, it's fantastic.

The album opens "Dogs Days Are Over" laced with invariable handclaps, assortment of persistent piano keys and a soaring haunting choir which acquires the background--which is essentially the back bone of the opener, It's a great theatrical endeavor and a nice opening to the album. Next up is the current single "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" pulsing with drums, cyclical string synths and an overall whimsical spacing. The song is constructed very well, the verses aren't conventional, but they hold up well as they as build up to that brilliant chorus.

Packed with 14 tracks (which is more than enough tracks for the common alternative rock album) you would expect there to be a little filler. Florence has a very interesting voice, it's bold and deep--and somewhat faintly scratchy--when used well, her vocal and bring a song to its higher heights--like on "I'm Not Calling You a Liar" a haunting fanciful number, which is sweet fueled by Florence's vocal--I barely even notice the jaunty piano keys and the buoyant strum of the harps in the background.

Another song that gets treated well with Florence's vocal is "Girl With One Eye" a string and drum ballad affair, in which she gives a fantastic vocal performance, possibly among the best songs on the album. I love the old western sound. Also, "Kiss With a Fist" a country/rock styled number, the first part of the album where it begins to pick up the pace.

Points where it doesn't seem to work (for me anyway) are--for starters "Hurricane Drunk" which could've used a bit more livening, it sounds like it was aspiring to take that direction anyway. Intertwined with clanging sounds, drums and deep piano chords--the composition seems to overshadow the vocal, especially during the chorus. The verses are more stripped in comparison to the chorus, fortunately it sounds a whole lot better, I like the lyric ("You can't hold me down, 'cause I belong to the hurricane"). Many of my friends said to me, this would be among the albums biggest highlights--It was also praised in many reviews I've read but I just can't get behind it.

More duds include "Blinding" a slow number, which paces with African styled drums and percussion. Maybe it just boils down to taste, but I don't like this that much. "My Boy Builds Coffins" was an initiall favorite, but what I liked about it--the melody--begins to wither away halfway through the song (mind you, it's less than 3 minutes long). I feel like I'm splitting hairs--or being too harsh hear, but the albums great moments greatly outshine what I feel don't hit the mark quite right.

"Howl" is a fantastic '60s inspired number, tied with melodic piano keys, violins and consistent drums. The enthusiastic "Drumming" is indeed not a misleading title--it's mostly backed by drums, percussion and doses of synth. I love love love the chorus, it's so awesome. Pounding with hard, fast paced and recurrent drums as it comes to a close and moves into the next verse, repeating the lyric: ("Louder than sirens, louder than bells, sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell").

The tambourine, piano and clap backed "Between Two Lungs" is good too. The spacey "Cosmic Love" is another highlight, she sounds great on here. Aided by angelic strums on the harp and lenient piano keys while not completely softening by incorporating a cutting edge agglomeration of drums. Fantastic stuff.

"Rabbit Heart" and "Cosmic Love" are both great tracks, but the one track on the album that leaves them coughing in the dust is the brilliant remake of The Source and Candi Station's 1991 top 5 hit "You Got the Love" an absolutely stunning remake and vocal performance. I've loved this for a long time now, it was also my favorite song for a while, so it's really nice to see a very decent cover of it. In 2008 the song was released as B-Side to "Dog Days Are Over" but with the release of this album, the song peaked at #68.

The album closes with "Swimming" a steady--piano, drum and orchestration affair. I wasn't expecting to like, Lungs as much I did. As I said before, it's not as consistent as it should be and maybe so that accessible, but it's a decent album, especially for a debut. It has its many moments of songs that don't quite hit the mark, but the songs that do make up very notable moments on here.

Best: You Got the Love, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), Cosmic Love, Drumming, Howl, Dog Days Are Over, Girl With One Eye


Anonymous said...

great review

J.Mensah said...

Thanks! =]

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


J.Mensah said...

Awww! =] Thank you

diantha said...

Blinding and Hurricane Drunk are fillers? No way!! My Boy Builds Coffins and Girl With One Eye are the tracks I thought were filler. But to each their own, and I enjoyed the review. :)