Since bursting onto the scene fifteen years ago, Florence + The Machine – led by vocal powerhouse Florence Welch – have wowed fans and critics alike with their brilliant songs and fantastic live performances. Their new album, Dance Fever, is their first in almost four years and makes for a hugely impressive return.
Welch took up an interest in dance several years ago, and more recently, she discovered the history of choremania – ritual dancing to the point of utter exhaustion. She felt a connection with the need to experience such a similar freedom and form of release. It seems that connection is what has driven and inspired this new 14-track collection.
The pandemic made many re-evaluate their lives, their dreams and ambitions. It would seem it did the same for Florence. The opening number and lead single, “King” looks at how Welch addresses an inner conflict she feels about balancing a demanding, successful career with one day being a mum. It’s a situation and conflict that’s both relatable and powerful and delivered like a hurricane. It hits you full force with a powerful chorus and a number of brilliant hooks.
There’s an energy to the album that is hard to ignore. The renewed spirit of the band comes through on almost every track, though perhaps most strongly on “Girls Against God”, a song that doesn’t shy away from venting the anger and frustration Welch, and millions across the country, felt as a result of the quarantines at the peak of the pandemic when our lives as we knew them all but ground to a halt.
The line, “And if they ever let me out, I’m going to really let it out” is particularly relevant, especially now when music fans everywhere have recently, for the first time in more than two years, been able to release their pent-up energies and frustrations in an exciting and fun manner at live shows and festivals.
She also makes a point of detailing, through “Heaven Is Here”, how her career, although hard-fought and worked for and one she appreciates and is immensely grateful for has often felt like a burden. The pressures of popularity and fame are contrasted with her desire to live any semblance of a normal life. It’s a song that should make fans of any band or artist sit up and take note of the scrutiny and lack of privacy, so many of their favourites have to deal with – sometimes on a daily basis – and give them a deeper respect for everything they face as individuals and groups in the spotlight.
The pressures Welch addresses on “Heaven Is Here” are highlighted throughout the album musically as well as lyrically. While Welsh has become somewhat well known for holding a note in phenomenal fashion, on “Daffodil”, she does the opposite and litters the track with sharp, deep breaths, and the minute-long interlude that is “Restraint” is little more than a series of gasping noises, perhaps reminiscent of panic attacks and other such expressions of stress and pain. These breaths and gasps bring a darkness, a haunting feeling, to both tracks, but one that fits and works perfectly with the rest of the album.
“My Love” finds itself between the two more musical pieces and is a look into Welsh’s outlook on love. It is an indie-synth sounding track that plays like what many describe love to be; a complex, multi-layered feeling and experience that, as much as it can hurt, is ultimately a joy.
Dance Fever as a whole is a brilliant album, one that is sure to return Welch and her bandmates to the spotlight in a big way. A showcase of their evolution, it’s a collection that is both personal and powerful, addressing issues and expressing feelings so many can relate to, and that alone makes it a stand-out release of the year so far.
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