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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Florence and The Machine Lungs (Island)

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I first came across Florence Welch, a.k.a. Florence and The Machine, via a video of her covering Beirut’s ‘Postcards from Italy’ on Youtube, and not even the substandard sound and picture quality could detract from her performance. Somehow, Welch achieved the same sense of strength and wistfulness of the lavish original despite working with a comparatively Spartan ensemble: her voice, keening, crooning and yodelling to just the delicate strum of a ukulele. Upon unearthing some live recordings and demos, I discovered that her original works of soul-inspired indie were equally arresting, and since then I’ve been looking forward to the release of her debut Lungs.

I’m pleased, albeit unsurprised, to report back that Lungs is just as good as I’d hoped it would be. Welch’s stage moniker is apt because she’s undeniably the heart and soul of the group: her backing band, The Machine, is more or less irrelevant as far as the casual listener is concerned, because it’s Welch’s magnificent voice that brings her songs to life. Reflective and vulnerable in ‘I’m Not Calling You a Liar’, a thunderous call to arms in ‘Cosmic Love’, and swinging between both in ‘Dog Days Are Over’, her delivery is controlled, but not restricted: it seems more raw than that of, say, Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes, who is a comparable talent. (Indeed, both Lungs and Khan’s second album Two Suns are in the running for this year’s Mercury Prize.) This suits Welch’s larger-than-life stage persona: imagine an over-the-top PJ Harvey; a less deadpan Cat Power; or Kate Nash without the twee. Playing up to the stereotype of the fiery redhead, when Welch sings of cutting out a rival’s eye, King Lear-stylez, on ‘Girl With One Eye’, it’s with alarming conviction (“That’s the price you paid”), while the simple but infectious ‘Kiss With a Fist’ explores the turbulent nature of human relationships by way of an extended metaphor of domestic violence. At least I hope it’s a metaphor.

I had high hopes for Lungs, and gratifyingly, I was not disappointed. While Florence and The Machine will doubtlessly appeal to listeners of Bat for Lashes, PJ Harvey and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, she’s established herself as her own individual. The British music press are notoriously excitable about promising up-and-coming acts, but for once, I believe the hype: you might as well give her a listen now, because I predict that sooner or later, she’ll be the darling of every radio station, every party playlist, and every iPod.

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About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

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