Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Sounds: Florence + the Machine

What do you think of when you hear the term "Alternative music"? For me, artists with such varied music as She & Him, Jon Foreman, Norah Jones, Bowling for Soup, Bjork, and even the Avett Brothers come to mind. Alternative lies somewhere between Indie (Independent), Folk, Rock, Soul, and the raw, unpolished and engaging sounds of fringe pop. In rare cases, it can even lie in the realm of metal, but it is then never called simply "alternative". You see, the label "Alternative" isn't usually left as just "Alternative", although it is becoming more common these days as bands strive to be out of the basic categories of Rock, R&B, Blues, Pop, Metal, etc...
Usually you will her such labels as "Alternative Rock", "Alternative Soul", "Alternative Folk", and so on. It describes the fringe, independent, and more artistic and eclectic bands that have broken out of conventional molds.
The group Florence + the Machine (i.e. Florence and the Machine) is closer to a strict "Alternative" label, but if I had to classify them, I would say they are a cross between Alternative Rock and Soul with a dash of Indie playfulness added to the mix. Their lyrics often deal in metaphors and ideas, not just strictly the words being sung. Interpretation is often needed. For example, the song "My Boy Builds Coffins" goes:
"My boy builds coffins for the rich and the poor
Kings and queens them all knocked on his door
Beggars and liars, gypsies and thieves
They all come to him 'cause he's so eager to please

My boy builds coffins he makes them all day
But it's not just for work and it isn't for play
He's made one for himself
One for me too
One of these days he'll make one for you"

In this song, they work to impress upon the listener the finite amount of time we all have. Whether we are a King or Queen or the poorest and most destitute of thieves and beggars, we all die. Later, Florence Welch, lead singer and part of the band's namesake, sings "He crafts everyone with love and with care; Then its thrown in the ground, it just isn't fair", pointing out how often we as humans put work into things that will only end in death, that we can only take with us to the grave and no further. How death is not fair. How it's not natural, but it's inevitable.
To me, that sounds like a deep insight into mankind, and something most mainstream artists wouldn't even touch. Can you imagine Bieber, Ke$ha, Timberlake, etc... talking about death and mortality in such metaphors, stories, words, and depth? I can't.

But for Florence + the Machine, it works. So, today I am dedicating an entire post to them and their unique, catchy, and deep songs. My favorites are "Dog Days are Over", "Rabbit Heart" (which references Alice and Wonderland and the story of King Midas), "Drumming" (Which uses the ideas of heaven and hell as extremes of happiness and torture in more literal terms), and "Bird Song".

I must make a note about Bird Song. Florence sings how a bird came around, singing for all the neighbors to hear about how she had changed, and it is implied, compromised herself, her dreams, her morals, to get to where she currently was. She lures the bird inside and kills it, trying to silence the song of the past and the sting of her conscience. But what happens is that as a result of her actions, she starts singing the song, the bird's fateful words coming from her own mouth. Ironic justice, don't you think? A tale of how our past will catch up to us, and our choices will inevitably come to light, often by our own doing. Again, depth and insight not often found in many of today's cookie-cutter musicians. To top it all off you have Florence's amazing voice, and her band's unique, engaging, fun, and quirkily compelling music.

If you couldn't tell, I really enjoy their music. There are a few songs of their that I don't listen to, one because of the content (Girl with One Eye, not included in the playlist for today), but overall, I highly recommend Florence + the Machine. Take a listen and let me know what you think of them! And please, listen to each song fully. There are often surprises or musical shifts halfway to 2/3s of the way through, as often seen in Indie music.

And so I present for your listening pleasure "Florence + the Machine"

Be Well!
-Rae Read more "Saturday Sounds: Florence + the Machine..."
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