Review of Florence and the Machine's album Lungs released through Island records on 6th July 09.
It seems almost impossible to believe that this is a debut album. The huge fan base, a Brit award for Critic's Choice and tipped for great things in 2009 by all the polls - the hype machine has been in overdrive. All this with just two singles under her belt. It's no surprise then that the first full length offering from Florence And The Machine carries the burden of huge expectation.
No expense was spared for the record's production with Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Maximo Park), James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Last Shadow Puppets) and Steve Mackay (PULP, M.I.A) all on board - and it shows. Packed with cavernous drums, piano and strings, it has an almost ethereal soul-pop sound, not unexpected from its free spirited, eccentric creator. But its Florence's unparalleled vocals that blow you away. They are delivered with an almost pained heartfelt emotion and honesty. They switch from a fragile whisper to a full on wall of sound in an instant.
The familiar frantic pace of the Dog Days Are Over opens the album and sets its tone. New single and stand out track Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) is a beautiful multilayered pop tune with choir-esque backing vocals and catchy chorus. If any of her tracks is going to have mass appeal - this is it. The album has a good mix of galloping thumping tracks and more low key string heavy ballads. Lyrically its matters of the heart rule the record and are delivered with passion and honesty, no more so than in the brilliant Hurricane Drunk where Welch sings 'In the crowd I see you with someone else, I brace myself cos I know It's gonna hurt, but I'd like to think at least things can't get any worse' or on the vengeful storytelling of Girl With One Eye. In trademark style, her songs build to a crescendo before dropping to a hushed or slower pace and that creates a definite tension, almost leaving you on edge, with her passionate vocals adding to the experience.
The heavy production adds yet another dimension to an already brimming record and you wonder if that's really necessary. Florence's vocals could have been stripped right back and would still have had the same effect and the almost overwhelming sound means that it needs a couple of listens to get the full effect. But saying that, Lungs more than lives up to the high expectations that surround its release. The bold sound doesn't overpower the vocals, it manages to be loud yet delicate but it is those vocals that make this an utterly compelling album.