Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) is undoubtedly one of the most evocative songwriters of the past decade.
On her past four albums with her band, The Machine, Welch has steadily elevated her artsy pop-rock, from the primal pounding of “Dog Days are Over” from her 2009 debut album “Lungs” to the deeply personal revelations nestled in 2018’s “High As Hope” album.
With “Dance Fever,” released Friday, Welch and producers Jack Antonoff and Dave Bayley of Glass Animals have crafted a musical rave designed to enlighten. “Cassandra,” and “Prayer Factory,”
Recorded in London as the pandemic raged around her, the album zigzags from idiosyncratic (“Heaven is Here”) to thoroughly unfettered pop-rock (“Free”) with some spoken word tossed in for additional eccentricity (“Choreomania,” named for the Renaissance-era phenomenon where groups of people would dance themselves to exhaustion).
Welch has stated that “Dance Fever” – a title that sounds like the modern-day companion to The Bee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack – was born out of her longing for togetherness during lockdowns.
Her mental jumble of anguish relieved by the power of music is encapsulated in the jittery “Free” as she sings in her throaty voice, “I’m always running from something/ I push it back, but it keeps on coming/ And being clever never got me very far/ Because it’s all in my head.”
A supreme vocalist, Welch can seemingly effortlessly shift from injecting choral overlays in “Back in Town” to crooning a folksy shuffle (“The Bomb”). Equally chameleonic is her segue from the disco popper “My Love” – a highlight among the 14 tracks – to “Restraint,” a 48-second collection of croaks and gasps. And can we talk about the ending to “Daffodil.” Seriously, one for the archives. Absolutely beautiful.
Her lyrical prose requires several listens to extract the nuances, but she’s at her most definitive in “King.” With a locomotive snare and bass drum powering the song, Welch decries labels such as “mother” and “bride” as she wonders why women always have to suffer for their art. Her determination? “I am king.”
Welch wraps the album with “Morning Elvis,” a wrenching reflection of her drinking days (she’s been sober since 2014) when, severely hungover, she missed a flight to Memphis with the band. “The bathroom towels were cool against my head/ I pressed my forehead to the floor and prayed for a trapdoor/ I’ve been here many times before/ But I’ve never made it to Graceland,” she sings as guitars seesaw woozily in the background, creating the sound of disorientation.
This is Welch’s story to tell and we are all her captivated audience. Stay tuned to MusicOnTheRox.com for all your music news and reviews.
Jerrett Franklin grew up in a small town, he moved to Nashville to pursue a music career. After writing for a few different artists in the area, he decided to branch out and give local music the spotlight. That is where the idea for Music On The Rox originated from. We are dedicated to shining a light on local music and giving a voice to those who aren’t being heard.