Essential Unheard: Florence + The Machine
As she embarks on her Ceremonials tour, Florence and her Machine sit alongside Adele as one of the biggest exports the UK has produced in recent times. Receiving acclaim and commercial success in the US as well as being one of the finest vocal talents on our own shores, the hype surrounding Florence is quite surprising regarding the fact that they’ve (she’s?) only just released their second record. But beneath the surface, there are hoards of unheard tracks seeping out on to the live scene, streaming on Youtube and Soundcloud and even underappreciatedly tacked onto the back of a single. I scoured through them and brought out a few highlights that you might want to check out and start your journey deeper into Florence’s history.
Bonus Tracks & Bsides
Swimming, Strangeness & Charm, Bedroom Hymns
The epitome of critical acclaim, ‘Lungs’ came complete on iTunes with a gloriously underrated track titled ‘Swimming’. The lush string composition sways throughout the track like waves lapping against a shore; pretty relevant then. The queen of crescendo stikes again as the immense hook grows larger throughout and bursts into a stunning finale. Easily one of F+TM’s best and easily one of the most essential, yet underrated, gems.
Current record, ‘Ceremonials’ has also brought a selection of bonus tracks to the table. The frantic style of ‘Strangeness & Charm’ is a celebration of Florence at their best as it provides a welcome, free-spirited vibe to the emotional record. Save also for the force of nature that is ‘Bedroom Hymns’; complete with intelligent lyrics, a magnificent chorus and a continuity of the dark atmosphere conjured up by it’s mother record.
Don’t Tell Me, Tear Out My Tongue
Approach these demos with caution if you’re expecting the bombast of Ceremonials. Florence’s demos, more than most, require a little imagination; no orchestras adorn the musical equivalent of jotting early ideas down. But often, it’s that simplicity that works wonders. Whilst tracks like ‘No Light, No Light’ own the grand production, check out an early version of ‘I’m Not Calling You A Liar’ (titled ‘Don’t Tell Me’) to see a passionate Flo accompanied only by piano and still managing to convey the striking atmospheres she’s known for.
Not all the tracks enjoy recognition however, as the powerful ‘Tear Out My Tongue’ was omitted from official release for some reason. Though it sounds a little choppy in parts, the verses on this demo are fantastic and show Florence at her feistiest; it’s hard not to see the hoards of potential and a future revisit should be on the cards, if there’s justice in the world.
Halo, Can’t Speak French, Addicted To Love
Humming along to the down-tempo beauty of ‘Addicted To Love, it’s hard to comprehend that it wasn’t an original Flo song. She takes Palmer’s hit and brings it to a chilled out tempo, gently serenading the listener and proving that it isn’t only with all guns blazing that Florence succeeds; her subtle beauty is one of her strongest attributes.
So whilst nobody bats an eyelid at her covering Robert Palmer, they were a little more reluctant to accept the genius behind her covers of Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ and Girls Aloud’s ‘Can’t Speak French’. The former brings Florence’s sensational voice to the fore as it tackles the ginormous majesty of the track whilst retaining it’s uplifting sentiment. ‘Can’t Speak French’, however, almost sounds like an entirely different track, as the synths are replaced with dreamy layered vocals and a tender acoustic guitar.
You’ve Got The Love (Little Noise Session), Blinding (Rivoli Ballroom Live)
For those looking to enjoy the grossly overplayed ‘You’ve Got The Love’, the stunning rendition produced during the Little Noise sessions should be a suitable remedy. The Little Noise sessions do exactly as their name suggests and show tracks at their roots; cut away from massive productions. This only adds to Florence’s charms as the splendid almost-acoustic of ‘You’ve Got The Love’ shines in a new light.
On the other hand, the Rivoli Ballroom performance of ‘Blinding’ does exactly the opposite and piles on an extra minute to the track; to it’s benefit, might I add. The beautiful build up that was evident on the record remains but the addition, and the main charm of this live rendition, is the immediacy and desperation of the frantic close. If this track doesn’t make you desperate to buy a ticket for Florence’s next show, nothing will.
Girl With One Eye (Bayou Percussion Version)
One remix that stood out was the incredible Bayou Percussion take on Girl With One Eye. The rocky track is given a symphonic makeover as the guitars are replaced with orchestral backdrops. It’s a much calmer affair, so if you’re fancying a chilled out rendition instead of the charged, vicious assault that characterises the original to it’s merit. The remix does what all good remixes should do; take the track in a different, interesting direction.
Fairytale of New York, All I Want For Christmas Is A Girl With One Eye
Taking novelty and making something reasonably beautiful out of it, Florence and Billy Bragg’s cover of ‘Fairytale of New York’ channels the personality of the original whilst adding an atmospheric beauty to it with the bells and strings that F+TM have become synonymous with. Meanwhile, adding a little more Christmas to her track ‘Girl With One Eye’, the lengthy title of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Girl With One Eye’ halts the celebrations after a short lived cover of Carey’s track before smashing into the ‘Lungs’ track. A little something to make the Christmas songs more bearable. We’ll stop with the C word now; it’s only March.
So whilst there’s a lot to enjoy for now, F+TM’s back catalogue is pretty stellar and deserves a lot more attention than unreleased tracks are usually given. Get onto youtube, see if you agree and take the plunge into the plethora of glory that lies in waiting for your ears and attention.
Words: Simon McMurdo