Florence + Machine’s debut album Lungs was released on the back of a lion; despite the band’s relatively young timeline, the first album managed to grab the second place on the UK Albums Chart for five weeks upon release. Headed by lead singer and namesake Florence Welch, the album holds itself to a sense of artistic integrity and deep introspection. Pitchfork reviewer Ryan Dombal described the work of the album as a “mystic brand of pop that’s part Annie Lennox, Grace Slick, and Joanna Newsom.” Welch carries the album on a belting, intensely emotional connection to her music, backed with orchestral accompaniment and harp serenades.
The fundamental sound of the album is an amalgamation of reimagined folk sounds, placed over delicate and well thought out harmonies. Welch, a native Londoner, has developed a style of singing as unique as it is powerful; her voice resonates with a decided intensity layered with her admittedly charming British accent. The composition of the music plays largely on the band’s choice of unorthodox instruments. Nearly every song on the track is played with the indie-folk voice of a tambourine and the somber-yet-sophisticated poise of a harp. Welch manages to create an environment to surround her voice in the music, and it’s for that reason that the album manages such a wholesome experience.
Much of the album is a quiet discussion of a narrator’s interpretation of romantic events; Welch casts herself as starry-eyed and lion-hearted, and her songs read as much as poems as they do lyrics. Within the album, the narrator struggles with the point of jealousy and a conscious awareness of death. The range of topics cycles from the simplicity of feeling something romantic to the anger and resentment that evolves as a relationship starts to fall apart. In the words of Welch, “a kiss with a fist is better than none.”
By and large—this is where the album gets interesting—the album is filled to the brim with unexpected and unorthodox juxtapositions that serve as a window into how the songwriter is thinking. Welch serves as a sounding point for the juxtaposition of love and hate, or the juxtaposition of life and death. The album manages to reach its climax of imagery and profundity in the song entitled “Cosmic Love”, which serves as a ballad detailing how small love is in the grander scheme of the universe, but the ultimate importance of feeling something despite the scope of it. The narrator of the song finds herself “always in the twilight/in the shadow of [her lover’s] heart;” a statement about the power that love ultimately has on her frame of mind.
Between the charm and the power of Welch’s Lungs, the album approaches the world with a charismatic grimness that beckons the listener to reevaluate how the world moves around them. The lyrics of the album are clever, smart, and consciously put together, while the music is a powerful derivation of modern pop music; by any metric, the album is carefully artful, and the care that the band has placed in its production is ultimately what allows the piece to have such an intense experience to it.