Music reviews

La Roux and Florence And The Machine's latest albums reviewed and rated

1/2
La Roux

3/5
La Roux

Surely there aren’t any pop fans left who are unfamiliar with young Elly Jackson’s near-hysterical, helium-pumped, top-end-of-the-register whoop. ‘Quicksand’ and ‘In For The Kill’ let her voice run rampant on PCs and iPods all over the world. But as her reputation increased, what at first impressed as a quite remarkable USP soon started to sound plain deranged – more like an Unbelievably Silly Pitch. This is not to deny the instant appeal and biff-bang power of her pipes, simply to say that the novelty fades faster than a fake tan.

Which is why it comes as quite a relief when the distinctively flame-haired Ms Jackson does drop the mannered, windtunnel falsetto on La Roux’s debut LP. Her ‘other’ voice has more warmth, grit and – crucially – heart, and so is put to good use on the terrific ‘Colourless Colour’, which adds a properly soulful ache to its ’80s synth-pop/post-rave euphoria; on the introspective ‘Reflections Are Protections’; and on the sexily staccato single ‘Bulletproof’, where Jackson comes on more like a cross between Katy Perry and Pink. ‘Armour Love’, meanwhile, hedges its bets by combining both voices. To focus exclusively on The Voice, however, is to do La Roux a disservice.

Jackson would be nowhere – well, somewhere less successful – without co-producer/writer Ben Langmaid. He must take at least half the credit for their streamlined, retro-modernist disco pop, which suggests Yazoo and Eurythmics made over for the Justice generation. We must ’fess up and say that Ladyhawke does it for us over La Roux every time, but the world is big enough for both and, as disco-pop diversions go, this is amply entertaining.
Sharon O’Connell. Available in stores.


Florence And The Machine

4/5
Lungs

It’s probably not hard to get UK DJs Edith Bowman and Lauren Laverne onside when you’re a 22-year-old art school dropout with the voice of a feral angel and Mairead Nash of Queens Of Noize as your manager. But you might imagine Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman to be less of a pushover. Nevertheless she, those handing out this year’s Brit Award for Critics’ Choice and most of the even vaguely leftfield-listening pop public have been bowled over by Florence Welch.

We’re roundly ignoring all current ‘The future of music is female’ cobblers and would venture that, striking though her talent is, Welch isn’t ploughing a lonely or exclusive furrow. Consider raw and punky debut single ‘Kiss With A Fist’, which suggests a hybrid of Kate Nash and Ida Maria, and set that against her latest, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’,
a gorgeous, giddily compelling thing cast in a similar animist mould to Bat For Lashes.

Then there’s the image of Welch on the sleeve of her harp-assisted debut LP – almost a homage to weird-folk pinup Joanna Newsom. That’s not a charge of copycatism, but simply points at creative confluence and contemporaneousness, since Welch and her septet (‘The Machine’) wear no one else’s shoes. Lungs has all the power that title suggests: Welch’s rich, bluesy, nu-soul voice are a darkly romantic and gustily powerful means to her lyrically intriguing ends.

Spangly enchantment with a muscular edge abounds, from the driving ‘Howl’ to the alluringly slurred ‘My Boy Builds Coffins’ and the Siouxsie-like ‘Blinding’. ‘Hurricane Drunk’ may be a Morcheeba-like blot on her bewitching, orchestral folk-pop copybook and ‘You’ve Got The Love’ is a novelty add-on but otherwise Lungs is a dynamic blast.
Sharon O’Connell. Available in stores.

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