Rating: 7 / Label: CD/LP / Label: Island Records
Little Boots reckons it’s only the fact that her, Florence and La Roux are women that has people comparing them, but that’s not the case. Female or male, the three of them are the three pop vocalists that the higher powers have decided will be big this year (I mean what’s the male equivalent, Jack Penate?), and the dynamic between them has been carefully manufactured as to not tread on the others’ toes.
Boots is the Kylie of the three. Ignore the fact she’s so girl next door she can play a Tenori-On; her next single’s produced by the same person as Lady Gaga’s last one, and her debut album Hands is poptimism gone in at the deep end: explicitly sleek, obnoxiously hook-centered songs that are nowhere near as appealing as the ‘realer’ ones she wrote with Joe Goddard last year that provide the record’s highlights. La Roux’s the edgy one of the three (edgy in the sense that Metro readers might consider someone edgy anyway), banging on about synths and the 80s, wearing a quiff under a Nu Era hat and generally trying to be a bit outspoken over like, domestic violence. Which leaves Florence: the authentic one. The singer-songwriter one. The ‘untouched’ one, who recorded her second single in "a studio the size of a loo".
There’s not a font size large enough for those air quotes on ‘untouched’ of course: Florence’s debut album is almost comically polished, recalling the first Arcade Fire album in its searing crescendos, overblown flushes of piano and massive drums. There are few things worse in music than an album that goes for the epic on every track, which Florence – or at least the people behind her – try for on Lungs. But unlike say, The Killers, there’s enough moments of good-songwriting, and intimate, touching moments on show here for Lungs to not just survive, but occasionally excel.
‘Rabbit Heart’ might have a chorus custom-built for a montage on an ITV drama, but Florence’s delivery, and the low-mixed synth pulses that surface at various points, see it through. Future single ‘Drumming Song’ nails contrasting a quiet, slow verse with a loud, driving chorus, and that final ‘there’s a drumming noise’ bridge gives me shivers the way La Roux never will. ‘Between Two Lungs” backing isn’t too far removed from Hauschka’s spritely instrumentals. What really makes this album work though is Florence. There are some clangers on the lyric front, but generally she’s got such a range, and just such a strong voice, that you can’t not root for her: even when covering ‘You’ve Got The Love’, she comes through in a way that her aforementioned peers wouldn’t. Lungs isn’t great, but it’s good, and it’s not often you can say that about something from the UK that sells 63, 000 copies in its first week. And shit, it’s better than the second Arcade Fire album.