Released 10 years ago this week, Florence + The Machine’s 2009 debut, Lungs, was a massive breath of fresh air; an inhale of profound creativity and unique sonics, an exhale of celestial wonder and cosmic bohemian beauty.
After trying to make it in the music industry in a traditional way for years, Florence Welch teamed with friend Isabella Summers in 2007 to become Florence Robot/Isa Machine, playing small London venues with their unconventional sound and hyper surrealist songwriting. With the acquisition of a full band and a record deal with Island Records in 2008, the newly christened Florence + The Machine released Lungs on July 3, 2009.
Starting from scratch, they created a thematically complete full-length, which Welch described as a “scrapbook of the past five years… it’s about guilt, fear, love, death, violence, nightmares, dreams.” This idea is portrayed with stunning perfection.
From its 13-song track list, the album produced SIX massively successful singles, with four other tracks appearing in movies and television. The record topped the U.K. charts, and reached number 14 on the Billboard 200. A decade late it has sold sextuple-platinum in the U.K. and double platinum in the U.S. That’s a pretty unbelievable performance for a debut album.
A lot of the music lends itself to classically constructed styles, using contemporary instrumentation to build symphonic tones. At points it mixes in punk melodies and hard rock riffs, but with orchestral percussion, string arrangements (with a lot of really cool harp pieces) and Welch’s crescendo-ridden vocal performances, this album plays in a very unusually contemporary-classical way.
Following landmarks like Feist’s The Reminder (2007), Adele’s 18 (2008), and Regina Spektor’s Far (2009), Florence + The Machine set themselves apart from most female-driven pop acts by matching its unconventional style with Welch’s idiosyncratic lyricism and voice.
She writes astounding allegories and sings these super powerful canticles about the never-ending war on love, relationships and personal dignity that, in spite of its grandiose facade, is really primal and relatable. When she sings “My boy builds coffins for better or worse, some say its a blessing, some say its a curse…” she isn’t just writing gothic narrative, she’s describing a multi-dimensional metaphor about herself, passion, torrential heartbreak, ex-lovers, dreams, aspirations and disillusionment.
Much like respiration, Florence + The Machine’s debut album is as easy to listen to as it is invigorating. Fresh, rejuvenating air expands our chests with pressure, followed by a moment of stillness as the strained muscles feed our life force oxygen, and finally a relieving exhale of contentment.
Entering with the marching excitement of “Dog Days Are Over,” and expanding on cathartic emotional tribulations until its exit with the angelic cover of Candi Staton’s “You’ve Got The Love,” Lungs is a fully eclipsed waxing and waning spiritual experience of superlunary euphoric rhapsody.
Listen to: “Kiss With A Fist,” “You’ve Got The Love,” “Dog Days Are Over”
Kiefer is a writer, musician and zealous record collector. He started hoarding vinyl because mp3s weren’t convenient enough, cassettes were too expensive, and he couldn’t turn a CD over. The soundtrack of his life is chronicled every week as #KiefersMusicMondays on Instagram (@key_fur). Currently residing in Lubbock, TX—home of Buddy Holly—he’s an avid music enthusiast by day and a mixologist by night, fighting the good fight for all things artistic. He started writing for MMC in 2019.