Review: Florence and the Machine – Dance Fever

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I always have trouble figuring out how to open a review, especially when the body of work speaks for itself and anything I add won’t be any more enlightening, maybe even less so. I almost never feel this way more than when I think of Florence Welch. A startling force to be reckoned with in the music world. She stands like justice above it all, with the past in one of her scales and modernity in the other. With Dance Fever, she first uses her sword to rip away her blindfold, and then ours.

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You can buy or stream Dance Fever on Apple Music

Never am I more anticipatory of a release cycle than one of Florence’s. Her attention to detail and obsession over the visual arts in combination to her musical craft are second to none, and Dance Fever is no different. From billboards that look like Renaissance paintings from a museum wall to a series of music videos telling us exactly what she wants us to glean, Florence spares no emotional expense to bring us into her world.

The album begins with Florence being torn between two lifestyles: domesticity and the quietness it brings, or the energy of being on the stage and creating new life with her words. “King” was the first single and I mentioned it in a past Queue It Up. I bring it up here because in tandem with the rest of the singles it provides a personal look to Florence’s recent struggles, but in the context of the album it is a tale of womanhood in a broader spectrum. When she lets loose at the end, it’s a nod to any woman who has ever been frustrated by whether she should settle for a life of nurturing, or to keep growing the thing inside of her that longs for freedom and the desire to run from anything that will tie her down. 

It ends with “Morning Elvis” and her having made her decision through song. Throughout, she sings of feeling like she is at once too much and not enough. She sings of old times at shows and cutting her teeth on her own career. She sings of traveling and feeling big feelings and dealing with her addiction on her own. She sings of being strong and being weak and being alone and yet when she is feeling love she feels uncomfortable. She contains multitudes, as do we all.

I think the album as a whole is a lament on years lost to time. Maybe for some that is through the pandemic that prevented us from being as close to normalcy as we wish, and for others it is through choices that have taken them far away from where they thought they could or should be by now. I know for me I feel at 25 I should feel more secure in where I am and where I am headed. It’s comforting to know someone like Florence, who exudes pure confidence in her stage presence, struggles with the same idea.

Lyrically, this is a call back to Lungs and Ceremonials, where she spins her words into gold from ages ago –  even calling a track Cassandra”, a woman from Greek myth whose curse was telling the truth but never being believed. I think it is telling that we hear a song like this from Florence. She has been singing  about the same thing for years, songs of bettering society and taking care of nature and finding the worth in ourselves, only for the world to sink deeper and deeper. 

Back in 2018, when Florence’s last album released, none of us could have foreseen that we would be stuck in time for almost three years. Months and months of not being able to personally partake in art has taken its toll on artists and listeners alike. I am certainly not the same person who put up a piece on High as Hope. Even the title is hard to bear, because hope feels so far away these days. But if High as Hope was Florence at her most demure, an ode to where we have been, then Dance Fever is an ode to where we are going. Nowhere but up.

4/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Florence and the Machine – Lungs

I was recently talking to Kiel about some of my favorite albums, the ones that truly impacted me as a music fan and as a person, and how a lot of those albums are hitting their release anniversaries this year. One of those albums is Lungs by Florence and the Machine. It’s an album that’s no doubt left a lasting impact on the musical culture of 2009. It’s been one of my top albums for as long as I’ve been listening, and I still think it’s Florence and the Machine’s best.

“Dog Days are Over” is probably the best known track that Florence has released, and it starts Lungs off strong. The entire album’s exploration of emotion hadn’t been done before in such a drastic, theatrical way. From beginning to end, Florence impresses us vocally, musically and thematically. 

My favorite tracks from Lungs are “Cosmic Love”, which brings me to tears almost every time I listen to it, “Between Two Lungs” for its lullaby-esque lilt and harmonies, and “My Boy Builds Coffins” for the way it describes an effortless and simple yet all-consuming love.

The way Florence uses literary references, nature imagery and a pre-Raphaelite muse is one of the main reasons I think she’s stuck around. Her creativity is boundless, and she’s willing to push the envelope to get her point across. Her label asked her to write an “upbeat” song for the record and the result, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, is about ritual sacrifice and King Midas. It seems like she tries to wriggle past authority; she holds her right to create tightly.

As a woman who enjoys music, and watches women in the industry get stepped on or stepped over, I appreciate the fact that Florence walks her own path. She has paved the way for other female artists to feel the freedom to do the same, and I think that if Lungs hadn’t succeeded the way it did in 2009, the music world would be vastly different. If Florence Welch hadn’t come along and garnered the success she did, I doubt that Marina Diamandis and Lana del Rey would’ve felt the confidence they do now in their unconventional music endeavors.

From the first track of Lungs, Florence Welch brings us into her world — a place where we can identify with each theme she creates but also escape to at the same time. Between her instrumentation and her ethereal stage presence, Florence’s music constantly raises the bar for art pop, from 2009 until now. Happy 10th birthday, Lungs.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Florence + the Machine – High As Hope

Florence Welch is not really known for the peaceful side of music. Thematically, things like storms and fights take precedent over quieter things. However, when I listened to her newest album, High As Hope, the only thing I felt was peace. Welch seems to be at peace with herself and the places she’s been and, therefore, the album exudes it.

You can buy High as Hope on Apple Music.

By the end of a Florence + the Machine album, I’m generally shocked. The albums are always intense and fast moving. It takes a while for everything to work itself out in my mind in order for it to become a complete work. That didn’t need to happen with High As Hope, because it’s just calm. Her last album was called How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The album was long and expansive like the ocean the title refers to. The latest album moves faster; it clocks in at 39 minutes and 57 seconds, though I thought about it for a heck of a lot longer than that.

The album opens with a song called “June”, which is aptly titled, being that the album was released on June 29th. It opens the album very quietly with the first lines being sung a cappella, before being joined by the slightest of strings. It sounds very Florence-esque, but in a very subdued way, almost akin to “Various Storms and Saints”. It sets the tone for the rest of the album in a way that makes the more energetic songs (not that there are many) almost feel out of place.

“Hunger” was the second single released in preparation for this album cycle. This song is heavy right from the beginning. In one line, she reveals that she struggled with an eating disorder. This sets up the idea that everyone is looking for something. Later, she sings, “Picking it apart and staring at your phone”. I know this might be a bit of a far reach, but the album art she chose as the cover for the song is of her reaching for a seedling. To me, when I listened to the song and looked at the album art, I saw a specific hunger for something authentic. Natural processes vs. machines (no pun intended), in a way. She specifically requested that audience members put their phones away on her last tour, in order that they might focus on what was actually going on around them, not watching life through a screen.

The final single she released, “Big God” is probably my least favorite track on the album. It just doesn’t seem like single material. “A Sky Full of Song”, though, is one of my favorite tracks. I love the fact that many of the songs are so bass-heavy. My fiancé is a bass player, so I might be a little biased, but I think the bass is underrated.

My absolute favorite song on the album is track six, titled “Grace”. She’s talking about the mistakes she’s made and the people she’s let down over the years. There’s a desperation in the way she sings on this song that makes it impossible to ignore. She sings, “I’m sorry I ruined your birthday”, regarding her substance abuse in her younger years and how it negatively affected her family life. She apologizes for it by singing, “But this is the only thing I’ve ever had any faith in / Grace, I know you carry us / Grace, it was such a mess”. To add context, her sister is named Grace and played an important role in keeping Florence going. In the same song, we find both an apology and thankfulness, which I think is the most beautiful expression on the album.

The final song on the album is called “No Choir” for exactly that reason. Florence is known for her use of overly layered vocals that provide that choral effect and it is completely absent here in this track. Like, “June”, it starts off a cappella and uses strings to build up to an emotional level that would be seen as ridiculous coming from anyone else but Renaissance queen Florence Welch. It’s about her music and where it’s taken her, and it’s a beautiful conclusion to an album that has shone light on some of the worst days of her life.

I think the album was crafted like the pain management brand Icy-Hot. “Icy to dull the pain. Hot to relax it away.” The topics Florence brings up on High As Hope are heavy but relatable – There’s your ice. The music is soothing and completely contrary to anything she’s talking about – There’s the heat. Gone are the angry drums and frantic melodies. Instead, it’s like you’re in the eye of the hurricane. It’s peaceful and safe. You can still sense the danger, and the minute you leave that spot, you’re back in the thick of the storm, but for this 39 minutes and 57 seconds, Florence + the Machine whisk you away and create, as always, a masterpiece.

4.5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Photo by Vincent Haycock