Video: ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’

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I’m aiming to go through the Mercury shortlist in something approaching alphabetical order; and it’s interesting to be covering the album of Londoner Florence Welch straight after Bat for Lashes, because the two are in some ways the flipside of each other. Both have a kind of fairytale vibe running through their music; but if Natasha Khan’s work is ethereal and delicate, Florence and the Machine‘s is quite the opposite.

Lungs is a pretty appropriate album title, because Florence has a very powerful voice; unfortunately, she hasn’t yet figured out how to use it to best effect. Her songs build and build – but sometimes build too much, and it’s a fine line to tread. When she gets it right, the results are fabulous, as on ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, which captures the epic atmosphere I think Florence is aiming for most of the time. Or ‘Between Two Lungs’, which is about as close as the album gets to a ballad, and has a similar widescreen feel, but more held in.

The problem, though, is that Florence has a tendency to overdo it. So we get songs like the swing-style ‘Girl With One Eye’, which is oversung to the extent that it’s quite a trial to listen to; or ‘Kiss With a Fist’, which cranks up the noise in an attempt at straightforward punk-pop but ends up sounding pretty drab compared to the rest of the album. In sum, Lungs is promising, but it could have done with more subtlelty.

Video: ‘Dog Days Are Over’ (live)

Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.