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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v06n24)
Rick On The Records - by Rick Zeigler
posted: Dec. 04, 2009

Rick on the Records header

The first and last thing one is likely to notice about the debut album by Florence & The Machine is the voice of leader, singer, and songwriter Florence Welsh. Powerful, operatic, dramatic, yet also flowery, wistful and melancholy, it dominates each song, whether it be an uptempo rocker ("Kiss With A Fist," a big single in the UK), a gospel-like beauty ("Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)), or when employed on much more delicate material ("Between Two Lungs," "Cosmic Love"). Coupled with brilliant arrangements and an enviable knack for big melodies, Welsh's voice makes Lungs an album that commands your attention. Throughout the disc, the strength of the vocals is constantly paired with gentler instrumentation, most notably harp, to provide fine musical contrasts that draw the listener into the music. Opener "Dog Days Are Over" is a perfect example of this, opening with a soft harp and almost whispered voice, both soon joined by pop-song handclaps. The song then introduces a pounding beat and a big hooky melody in the chorus. Even though the song basically consists of only two simple parts (as do a number of the songs here), the overall effect is riveting. The next song is the gospel-ish "Rabbit Heart. . . " with its shouted hook and massed background vocals giving it a powerful drive. "I'm Not Calling You A Liar" again employs the contrast between Ms. Welsh's declamatory vocals and more gentle instrumentation (once again, a harp), while "Howl" achieves this contrast by pairing a piano-led melody with a strong tom-tom drumbeat. And on "Kiss With A Fist," when Welsh sings, "A kick in the teeth is good for some/A kiss with a fist is better than none," the strength of her voice in conveying this "sentiment" is powerful enough to make you sit up and take notice. Not every song is sturdy enough to carry the weight Florence & The Machine pour into them ("My Boy Builds Coffins," "Hurricane Drunk"), but on the whole, this is one impressive debut.

Sainthood is the sixth album from Canadian twins Tegan and Sara Quin, and it continues a winning streak they established with 2004's So Jealous (and solidified with 2007's The Con). The lyrical focus of the sisters has always been about romantic obsession and desire, whether it be searching for it, finding it, or doubting the satisfaction one gets from it once found. Sainthood continues in this tradition but with two new, welcome, additions. The first is that the lyrical focus takes a more adult tone, although with references to the uncertainty of adolescence still firmly in place (e.g., telling an object of desire that she knows that "talking like a teen" is a turn-off, but nevertheless. . . ). The other addition is the surfeit of new-wave sounding songs, with a particular reverence for the late-70s sounds of The Cars and Devo. Sainthood's songs are almost uniformly spare in instrumentation, yet filled with quirky, hooky synthesizer lines and electronic splashes, as well as stuttery beats. On songs like "Hell" and "Night Watch," these elements all fit together beautifully to recall the debut albums of the two aforementioned bands and their brethren. "The Ocean" even throws in a reference to Tom Petty with its "American Girl"-like jangle. However, with the twins' great harmonies and fine melodies, these homages are put into something wholly new and end up sounding refreshed rather than dated, reinvigorated rather than just redone. Highlights include jittery opener "Arrow," slinky groover "Night Watch," and the infectious "On Directing," though every song has something that makes its presence welcome.

Rick Zeigler, along with his wife, Jeanne, owns Indy CD and Vinyl at 806 Broad Ripple Avenue. Back in his musician days, his band opened for the likes of U2, XTC, Gang Of Four, The Pretenders, Los Lobos, and, um, Flock Of Seagulls, among others. You can read all of Rick's reviews at Email your music questions and comments to
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