Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Florence + The Machine with Lykke Li | The "Flo Formula" Needs Work

Florence and the Machine
While channel surfing, I happened upon the Austin City Limits episode that featured Florence + The Machine and Lykke Li. I tried my best to understand Florence when she came to Summerfest Milwaukee, but failed to see why she had amassed such a following. Perhaps it’s me? I decided to give “Flo” another chance, and forced myself to sit and watch the entire live performance. I also thought it might be worth my while to see what Li sounds like. Sadly, I have to say that Florence has yet to go beyond what I would call her “One Trick Pony” status. As for Li, I was pleasantly surprised.

Lykke Li mixes the old with the new. She is the “new,” and some classic, time tested musical roots are the “old” goodies that can be found in her refreshing music. With songs like Sadness Is a Blessing, and Get Some, Li gives a nod to what I would call classic beats and melodies. The opening drum and piano line to Sadness Is A Blessing has been used for over sixty years, most notably in the song Leader Of The Pack by the Shangri-Las. If you think about it, Li has the reverb on her vocals turned up to “10” just like the Shangri Las! Get Some opens with a drum beat that could easily be the start to Bo Diddley. It’s not quite a note for note lifting of the beat, but I’m just pointing out that there are classic rock and roll roots in the new music of Lykke Li. As for something truly fresh, check out her I’m Good, I’m Gone video. It’s a great mix of stop action, creepy looking body builders, and catchy hooks.

Sadly, I can’t give Florence + The Machine their (her) due. Perhaps it’s because it’s nearly impossible to know if Florence has a true vocal range (or for that matter a true style) beyond what I have heard and seen so far. One might guess that her style is been very tightly controlled. When you first come out in the music business, there are pressures to keep making the same sound over and over. Most artists want to break out, grow, and show the world that they have more to offer. I’m not so sure that this is the case with Flo. When watching the show, I thought that there were changes on the horizon when in the first fifteen seconds of the song Cosmic Love, I heard hints that she can move beyond her (already) worn out way of projecting notes from her mouth. Sadly, she was back to her usual “pushing notes out hard” singing style for the bulk of the song.
Strip away all the effects, reverb, vibrato, and what does she have? That’s all I’m asking. Give me ten minutes of some seriously stripped down singing, and then we can judge properly. The last time that I posted something about “Flo” I was summarily dismissed as someone who didn’t know the true vocal force that she is. Sure, she’s got some power. How about range, dynamics, or the ability to move beyond the formula?

The Flo Formula Needs Something New

Here is the “Flo” formula. Her songs start of soft, get loud, go back to soft, and then end. The song Cosmic Love, starts off quietly, builds enough momentum so Florence can do her usual “push the notes” singing, and then finishes off quietly. Don’t believe me? The same can be said for the song Spectrum, Heavy in Your Arms, Shake It Out, What the Water Gave Me, and Never Let Me Go. When I went searching for proof that she must do something other than what I mentioned above, I picked those songs at random, and in that order. Line those songs up, and play them one after the other. They are all the same. I was thrilled to see that she’s a fan of Klaus Nomi. At least she knows a good singer when she hears one. I’m not ripping on the person, just the narrow nature of her musical repertoire.

No comments: