Album: Florence + the Machine up the stakes with Dance Fever
A fifth album offering from Florence + the Machine as well as new music from The Black Keys is on review this week...
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE
INTENTIONALLY or not, Florence Welch has spent much of her career creating her own myth: the woman with the titanic voice, inscrutable and anxious, committed to high concepts.
This is what makes Dance Fever, her fifth album with Florence + the Machine, such a delight.
The 35-year-old south Londoner knowingly addresses her own image while also breaking free of its constraints.
While recent albums have slipped towards operating more as a vehicle for Welch's voice, Dance Fever injects some of the dynamic songwriting of her 2009 debut Lungs.
Welch's media-shyness may have created an image of po-faced seriousness, but on Dance Fever she pokes fun as herself.
She introduces the track Choreomania with a monologue in which she knowingly describes “freaking out in the middle of the street with the complete conviction of someone who has never had anything actually really bad happen to them”.
Dance Fever is an album of dramatic highs and vulnerable lows, and a reminder that going back to basics can reap rewards.
THE fifth album from folk-rock duo Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones is a deft and heartfelt exploration of mental health and the ways in which we grapple with change.
Blue Hours, inspired the the idea of an imaginary headspace dedicated to self-reflection, tackles numerous subjects: the loss of loved ones, the excitement of becoming a parent, dementia.
The album is also inspired by their respective moves out of London in 2019 and the realisation that your worries follow you wherever you go.
All That You Are is an atmospheric piece that swells to a beautiful climax, while the title track looks back to the driving, glossy rhythms of the 1980s for inspiration.
Initially lumped with folk acts like Mumford & Sons, Bear's Den have since established themselves as an entirely different beast.
While these tracks do exist in the same musical world as the likes of Bon Iver and The Lumineers, Davie and Jones offer a distinctively British take on the style, and inject it with real depth of emotion.
THE BLACK KEYS
DROPOUT Boogie is the 11th offering from eclectic duo The Black Keys.
This time the rock pairing of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are leaning ever more so into their inner ZZ Top. They dipped their toe into the alt-boogie and blues water during Let's Rock, now we are well and truly swimming in the creek.
Featuring collaborations with Billy F Gibbons, Greg Cartwright and Angelo Petraglia, it's good to have rocking music back with bluegrass tendencies back on the radio waves as relaxing in the sun and late evening BBQs are on the horizon.
First single Wild Child opens the album and leads the way to a more subdued but funky It Ain't Over which burrows into your soul as your shoulder twitch and head bounces along before you land slap back in Bluegrass country with For the Love of Money.
The overall vibe is the most chilled rock album. Light a fire, grab some bourbon and chill.
THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH
KEVIN Morby has produced an album reflecting on memory, loss, family and the passing of time that is one of the best of the year.
The former bassist for indie band Woods starts with a brief snippet of family life before the title track reflects on a photo of his father, shirtless in the West Texas sun, the same age as Morby is now.
Then he was blazing with fire and energy “but time is the unbeaten heavyweight champion” that defeats all-comers.
He found the picture after his father collapsed at a family dinner and was rushed to hospital, and as he recovered Morby meditated on the way age and fragility catches up with even the strongest.
In the country-tinged final track, Goodbye To Good Times, Morby reflects on his mother aged 19, dancing to Tina Turner, and “a photograph, a window to the past, of a family growing old inside the boxing ring of time”.
In between, Disappearing and A Coat Of Butterflies both reference Jeff Buckley drowning in the Mississippi River when swimming fully clothed, in 1997.
Much of the album was written in Memphis, where Buckley was recording the follow-up to his debut LP Grace, and there are also nods to Stax Records and Otis Redding, another of the good to die young.
Stop Before I Cry is accompanied with strings and about “when Katie sings to me”, his partner his Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee, while the downbeat piano-led It's Over reflects on how Covid affected the life of the touring musician.
Many of the songs are about the passing of the years, including Bittersweet TN, a duet with Erin Raie, and the ideas of cherishing memories, and knowing that our time will inevitably run out so we should use it well, are expressed in catchy songs with beautiful melodies.
In keeping with his theme, Morby has produced an album that will surely stand the ultimate test – that of time.