In another life, the stunningly beautiful Florence + the Machine frontwoman, Florence Welch used to drink heavily, especially before she appeared on stage during every performance. The images of Welch as a fiery damsel and her drinking habit soon became a way of life on the road, until she had a near breakdown. In short, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to her. She pulled herself together, gave up drinking and focused all her energy in becoming a stronger person.
With her still outrageous costumes and undisputed stage presence (minus the hangover), Welch is surprisingly I believe one of the most acclaimed female artist of recent memory. She possesses one of the most remarkable voices that you just simply can’t ignore. Her style of music, a mix of soul and avant-garde indie rock is also truly a breath of fresh air. Her ability to also transcend different genres of music makes Welch instantly one of my favourite female artists.
Looking back through her catalogue (so far), along with songs dealing with the usual matters of the love and heartache, there are also less likely subjects covered like mysticism and redemption. Her debut album Lungs (2009) stands out as my favourite record, but I have come to really appreciate her latest offering How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015) almost as much. That said, I have to admit, it is hard to sometimes listen to Florence Welch because she very often seems to lay her soul on the line through her songs. For instance, Welch sings in Ship to Wreck, the opening track of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, “Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build this ship to wreck?” You can literally feel her anxiety, frustration and sadness as she reels you into her world.
To truly appreciate her multilayered song craftsmanship, and matched by that booming and often soulful voice, there are a handful of truly amazing songs you MUST listen to. Without getting carried away (and simply naming her entire back catalogue) – Dog Days Are Over, Never Let Me Go, Cosmic Love, You’ve Got The Love, and Delilah, are five musical standouts that I would definitely recommend to any newcomer to Florence + The Machine. Play them loud and play them as often as I do. Enjoy!
“Dog Days Are Over” (from Lungs, 2009).
Dog Days Are Over is a sentimental favourite that first introduced me to Florence + the Machine. It is catchy, uplifting and builds in earnest with a dreamy harp introduction and Florence’s gentle wail. I love how it continues to race along with those hypnotic harp strings before hand claps cleverly builds new layers of sounds and the song finally explodes with thumping tribal drums.
“You Got The Love” (from Lungs, 2009).
You’ve Got The Love is a glorious song that ends the album Lungs. Welch does an amazing job making her cover version of the Source and Candi Staton’s song uniquely her own. It is quite simply anthemic!
“Cosmic Love” (from Lungs, 2009).
Cosmic Love is bold and daring with all of Welch’s unique grace and glory. Well, at least I think so. Though, you would never guess that from Welch’s candid explanation of how it came about. “Cosmic Love was a joke title, but it stuck. The most hungover I’ve ever been when writing a song. I went to her studio after having been to a party, and I was lying on the floor wanting to vomit. We were working really hard on a song and just trying to make this shit piano part work, and all of a sudden I hit on one note, and I’d got it. We wrote the whole song in ten minutes.”
“Never Let Me Go” (from Ceremonials, 2011).
Never Let Me Go builds and boils over, as one of the finest rock ballads of recent years. Welch’s vocals are amazing, even heavenly as she draws on her gospel influences. Welch once said in relation to its gospel nod that it “comes from my obsession with hymns. I’m drawn to anything that has a hymnal quality, be it Spiritualized or dusty old albums by Georgian choirs.”
“Delilah” (from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, 2015).
Delilah encapsulates all that is brave and fearless in a Florence + the Machine song. Fusing themes of faith, love and forgiveness, Welch is at her vulnerable best as a songstress. It stands currently as my absolute favourite Welch song.
Photo credit: The header image of Florence Welch is by flickr user NRK P3 and is licensed and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license 2.0. I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.