The song used as the musical backdrop to shots of Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson was gothic and spooky, dramatic and sweeping. My shipper goggles were officially on. But more than the very appealing visuals, it was the song that dug its hooks in my chest. It was impossible to watch and it not be taken over by the feels as the female vocalist crooned hauntingly.
Seems that I have been held, in some dreaming state
A tourist in the waking world, never quite awake
No kiss, no gentle word could wake me from this slumber
Until I realize that it was you who held me under
I immediately looked for the name of the song and the artist – “Blinding” by Florence + the Machine – and took to the internet to try and track down a copy of the entire album titled Lungs. This was in the days before Spotify was prevalent, so I can neither confirm nor deny that I obtained the album “legally.”
Fronted by vocalist Florence Welch, her band The Machine, consists of keyboardist Isabella Summers and a collaboration of other musicians. I expected the entirety of the album to be filled with those all-encompassing eerie sounding songs. But to my surprise, the first track on the album Lungs was … poppy.
“Dog Days Are Over” opened the album with palpable yearning. Florence’s vocals are backed by harp strings as she sings of leaving your love and longing behind. Don’t you know you can’t carry it if you want to survive?
After the intensity of the first track, the album grows a bit more pensive with “Rabbit Heart [Raise it Up” (a song reminiscent of everyone’s favourite Alice), and “I’m Not Calling You a Liar.” It isn’t until the album’s fourth track, “Howl” that those supernatural and haunting undertones seem to make themselves known.
If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me
I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free
Screaming in the dark, I howl when we’re apart
Drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart
It’s difficult to listen to this song and not have it evoke feelings of raw, animalistic, intense passion.
That feeling, the need to have your desires quenched lest you explode are ubiquitous in many of the songs on Lungs. My personal favourite is “Drumming Song,” where Florence sings of the drumming noise in her head whenever the object of her affection is around. The intensity of her beating heart takes over – louder than sirens, louder than bells, sweeter than heaven, and hotter than hell.
Lungs has been a forever favourite of mine since I discovered it. It regularly features in my top five albums ever, and solidified Florence + the Machine as one of my favourite bands. And this week, Lungs turns ten, and I am reminded of how fleeting time is and of my own mortality.
It’s what Florence would want, I’m sure.
So what does one do on the tenth birthday of their debut album? Tenth anniversary re-release, of course!
Florence + The Machine will release an anniversary edition on colour LP, cassette, and as an exclusive double vinyl box set (available for pre-order now). The limited edition box set will also include an LP of previously unreleased tracks, b-sides, and rarities – two of which you can listen to now if you’re so inclined!
Though Florence + the Machine have released three albums since Lungs came out, their debut release remains my favourite, and I don’t know if any of their other releases will ever come close to it.
I adore Ceremonials, and How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful but they lack something that I think Lungs has in spades. And that’s something incredibly dark and foreboding, but at the same time earnest. Albums after Lungs still have those grand, haunting songs, but there’s a weariness to them, something worldly. And while those are wonderful, there’s something to be said for the songs that sound like they’re coming from that first heartbreak.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to listen to Lungs in its entirety for the millionth time in celebration of its birthday.