Inspired by the very real social phenomenon of Choreomania – a ‘dancing plague’ which beset medieval Europe, and caused its victims to dance themselves to injury or death – Florence + the Machine’s fifth album, ‘Dance Fever’, gives us the band’s most mature sound to date, and Florence Welch’s most personal reflection. Amelia Gibbs reviews.
For an album entitled ‘Dance Fever,’ which conjures images of glitter balls and disco lights, I was surprised by the generally rich and mellow sound of the majority of the tracks. With each album released, Welch and her band appear to move further away from the pop-infused feel of their debut album, ‘Lungs,’ which had an easy and accessible folk sound, and produced chart toppers and club remixes aplenty. With each new release, the music becomes a little more intricate in production, and a little more introspective in theme.
With ‘Dance Fever’, we are treated to a much more confident and mature sound, which feels like a natural growth from the band’s previous album, ‘High as Hope,’ and miles away from some of their earlier releases.
The song is somewhat a breath of fresh air in what is otherwise a rather uniform record
My Love is probably what would most likely pass for an actual dance track here. Whilst the song alone is energising, as a part of the album, it breaks away from the homogeneity of the record, and its presence between the heavy, cinematic feel of Daffodil, and almost Tom Waits-ian rawness of Restraint, is nothing short of jarring. Still, the song is somewhat a breath of fresh air in what is otherwise a rather uniform record.
The theming and production give ‘Dance Fever’ a sound that is distinct from other Florence + the Machine albums, but perhaps does not allow the individual tracks enough distinction from one another, meaning that some songs struggle to stand out, while others blend into each other, particularly on the first listen.
That’s not to say that there are no stand-outs at all, though. Free is perhaps the most jovial track on the album, allowing it to remain individual from the rest of its cohort for its buoyant instrumentation and memorable hook. Jack Antonoff has some producer credits here, and his influence on this song in particular, once noticed, shines through.
This is also one of the most lyrically compelling songs that the band has released to date, considering the rapid ups and downs of life and whether it’s okay to give in to the intense emotions that bombard you – “a feeling comes so fast and I cannot control it. I’m on fire, but I’m trying not to show it.” Dream Girl Evil also stands out for its dramatic sound, which harkens back to classic-rock, and must surely be impressive to hear live in an arena.
A master storyteller with her music
There’s no doubt that Welch is by far one of the most impressive vocalists in the British music scene at the moment. She masterfully uses her mature voice as her most prominent instrument, rarely allowing production to overshadow her, and proving her range by layering harmonies in most tracks, to build a sound that is full and deep. Welch has always been a master storyteller with her music, though now more than ever her focus is undoubtedly on her lyrics and narrative.
Reflecting on the band’s fifteen-year career, Florence + the Machine uses ‘Dance Fever’ thoughtfully, to contemplate such grand topics as life, music, and femininity, through a permutation of lyricism and spoken word, giving us perhaps their most personal album to date.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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