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Florence Welsh Brings Art Rock Back to the Masses

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Friday, Apr 2, 2010

In the last year, UK listeners have been inundated with the sound of the nasal-grazing, strawberry vixen, Florence Welsh – or as she is more popularly referred to as, Florence and the Machine. An opinionated, and compulsive Londoner, Florence, at just 22, was able to instigate the re-emergence of a musical trend that seemed to have petered out when the terms ‘avant garde’, and ‘experimental’, all of a sudden became unsexy.

By formulating arty piano tunes, and splashing in garage rock, and ‘80s style pop, synthesizers, and luscious string-soaked ballads, Florence seems to manage the unwieldy with effortless grace. This is coupled with a Kate Bush style quirkiness, a Christie Hynde snarl, and an effortless vocal ability that sits somewhere between Annie Lennox and Etta James.
Perhaps what has made Florence such a mainstream success, at the least in the UK anyway, is her ability to strike a happy medium between the echelons of popular diva hood (i.e., Katie Perrry, Lady GaGa), and the Lilith Fair brand (i.e., Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow). For instance, if one takes a look at her music video for ‘Drumming’, one will find the artist prancing around in a most unbridled, and unabashed fashion, whilst a flurry of carefully choreographed dancers linger in the background. By refusing to pander to the confounding stereotypes of following a regimented dance routine – and instead, choosing to haphazardly kick, spin, and twirl in front of her dancing minions, Florence is simultaneously aspiring to, and poking fun at the female musicians whom she equally feels inspired and deterred by.

Lyrically, she flits between the angst-ridden bouts of Alanis Morrisette (“Girl With One Eye”), and Fiona Apple (“My Boy Build Coffins”). Take for instance, the lyrics to “Girl With One Eye”, where the singer takes to her boyfriend’s mistress and yelps, “Hey, girl with one eye / get your filthy fingers out of my pie / I’ll cut your little heart out / Cause you made me cry.” While on the latter, she gently warns that “One of these days [her boyfriend] will make a coffin for you”.

This quiet and mystical poeticism is juxtaposed by the soaring crescendo of the album’s second track, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” – singing in a choir of one; this relentless catchy number simply begs the viewer to recreate the sensation of running barefoot in the night. While, on the ebullient ‘Drumming’ – the thumping sound of drums builds to a majestic cacophony, as the young artist draws lyrical correlations between desire, and sin.

Then of course, there is her beautiful façade – skin that looks like it was made of porcelain; strawberry locks, encased in the young performer’s boho-chic style. Welsh is an artist who seems to have everything going for her—a perfectly formed, and vibrant musical persona that is changing the way that we think about popular female musicians. Could she be bringing a different form of art rock back to the masses?


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