Thursday, 19 July 2018

A devastating new album by Florence + The Machine

Regular readers of this blog will probably be used to me being extremely hyperbolic as regards the talented Ms Florence Welch and Florence + The Machine.

But, hand on heart, the woman has surpassed herself with the new album High As Hope.

In the past fortnight or so it has earned the accolade of Album That Makes Me Cry The Most Ever.

For a variety of reasons...

I have just published my review of the album, and Welch's book of poetry and lyrics, Useless Magic, over on The F-Word.

Writing about a band you love doesn't have to be difficult but I've found that it's best to take a very specific approach to the task. That is, to write as though writing for an audience who A.) Are not aware of the artist in question at all or B.) Are aware of the artist in question but are largely indifferent to them. I tend to avoid taking this approach to it's logical conclusion of C.) Writing for an audience who actively dislike the artist in question. Why? Because life's too short. If I achieve a change of mind in those folk by accident, fair enough, but I'm not going to actively try and force someone to like an artist they really don't have any time for.

It's important not to write in fan mode when reviewing bands you love, if only because that tends to mean incorporating a sort of fanbase shorthand that no one beyond the fanbase can understand, which is a massive turn off for those not in the know. Also, you can't just exclaim a lot of superlatives, it's more important to try to paint a picture of what the record sounds like for the benefit of the uninitiated, make it vivid and real to them. They're more likely to go off and listen to it if you describe, say, 'Cosmic Love' as having "Sledgehammer drums" and "Soaring vocals" than if you just saying "It's AMAZING!!!" but don't explain why.

I hope I've got the balance right with my review of High As Hope because, while Florence + The Machine are hardly an obscure, undiscovered band, I do feel at times that they are underestimated and under appreciated. Not taken as seriously as musical talent as they might be. There is a slight suspicion in my mind that Florence Welch's pre Raphaelite inspired image sometimes works against her in the confines of the traditional rock press, that she is somehow viewed as being too feminine to be appreciated by the 'serious' rock critics and rock fans. Or is it more the combination of a very feminine image with assertiveness rather than passivity? Femininity combined with sonically complex emotional music? I'm not sure, I just have theories and feelings about all of this, suspicions...

Women do seem to really get the band, and the music, as well as the image and I would say that, both times I saw the band live (on the last tour) the audience was probably about 60:40 or 70:30 female:male. This is not a bad thing by any means, in fact it does tend to make for a more interesting gig atmosphere from my point of view, but it does also position the band outside of the rock canon quite often.

Rolling Stone described Florence + The Machine as one of the best live acts around today during the last tour in 2015-2016, and of the band's upcoming UK dates four of the nine have already sold out. They continue to go from strength to strength.

Some critics get it, some critics don't.

But the fans remain true and loyal.

Image is the album cover to Florence + The Machine's High As Hope album. Photo of Florence Welch by Tom Beard.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Emma Back "Shadow" Tiny Desk Contest Submission 2017

I interviewed avant folk artist Emma Back in late April. Her album, Little World, was released on 25th May and the idea was to have the interview ready in time to coincide.

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I'm only now starting to see the finish line in terms of completing the piece.

I do think the interview will be well worth waiting for though because she is a very intelligent and thoughtful artist, with a lot to say both musically and in interview.

In the meantime, this is 'Shadow', a live track that displays Back's layering technique beautifully.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Suzi Wu - Taken Care Of

The genius of Suzi Wu has crept up on me over the past six months or so. I liked 'Teenage Witch', but it's been 'Taken Care Of', with it's toughness and crunchy beats that has slayed me so far.

Looking forward to more.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Rié / Benevolent Creature

I'm keeping an eye on Rié, she's a graduate from St Martin's College of Art who's made a series of intriguing tracks in the past six months or so. 'Save You' features in the most recent F-Word music playlist, but new track 'Blood in the water' hints at a more complex, experimental direction.

Looking forward to hearing more.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Girl Ray - Trouble

A particularly irresistible ear worm from last year. Girl Ray, musically, are definitely in a lineage that includes bands like the Mo-dettes, Dolly Mixture and Girls At Our Best! but, at the same time, there is also something very modern about what they're doing. It's a sort of quiet genius, loping along, creeping up on you.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Charlotte Hatherley - I Want You To Know (Official Video)

Capturing Hatherley in a solo moment, post Ash, post Bat For Lashes. This is a great slice of energetic jump up and down guitar led indie. Fantastic. Open the windows and go for it.