Have You Heard Of: Florence + the Machine

In Great Britain on November 25, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I must confess… I have fallen in love with a certain Florence and her Machine. I tried to resist, but it turns out the British press and listening public were correct in their crowning the act (essentially a moniker for Florence Welch) the Next…Big…Thing. Her unique brand of art-pop, equal parts soulful, theatrical, and ethereal, hit the indie world by storm and her debut album Lungs became a bona fide hit overseas (it reached #2 in her native UK and eventually went Platinum). She solidified her success by garnering an impressive number of award recognition, including a Mercury Prize nomination, a BRIT Award, and three Q Award nominations amongst others. It really is no surprise, though, that the album found such a rapturous reception with both professional critics and the average music fan; her songs are swelling gale forces of musical emotion, while simultaneously being extremely catchy and listenable. And her preoccupation with death and pain, her liberal use of Gothic imagery, and willingness to take risks set her apart from both the mainstream pop world and indie community.

Florence herself as said she draws inspiration from artists like Kate Bush, Bjork, and Tom Waits, while also incorporating influences from her childhood like jazz vocalists and opera. According to her official website, “the common thread [amongst her influences] is always the emotion” and it’s not hard to see that reflected in her own music; songs such as “Dog Days are Over”, “Kiss With a Fist”, and “Hurricane Drunk” are bursting at the seams with her passionate vocals and full-blown instrumentation.

Of course, when one is responsible for such a distinct and self-assured first album as Lungs a follow-up that at least matches the quality of its predecessor can often be a tall order. I really don’t think fans should be worried, though.


Nowhere Boy, dir. by Sam Taylor-Wood

In Great Britain on November 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

Nowhere Boy represents British multimedia conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s film directorial debut, and tells the story of a young man in the late ‘50s and his interest in the burgeoning rock scene of the time as well as his relationships with his mother and aunt. Of course this is no ordinary story, as the film’s main characters go by the names of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 19 year-old actor Aaron Johnson (who is actually engaged to Taylor-Wood, 42 years his senior) portrays Lennon, the “Nowhere Boy” in question, while Thomas Sangster, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Anne-Marie Duff provide support as McCartney, Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, and his mother Julia respectively.

Based on a biography of Lennon’s adolescence by his half-sister Julia Baird, the film has already garnered considerable acclaim in it’s homeland; it was nominated for 6 British Independent Film Awards including Best Film, Best Actor for Johnson, and Best Supporting Actress for both Scott Thomas and Duff (the awards will be handed out December 6th). On a side note, electronica duo Goldfrapp is providing the score for the film. A must-see for every Beatles fan (and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?), the film opens in theaters in the UK on December 25th and will make its way stateside sometime next year.

Have You Heard Of: Disco Drive

In Italy on November 15, 2009 at 8:08 pm

It is no mystery that Italy has never been at the forefront of the modern indie rock scene; while they may be the peoples responsible for the Mona Lisa, gelato, the works of Fellini, and the discovery of the New World, they have yet to produce their own Arctic Monkeys. I know, ‘tis a tragedy of epic proportions. And yet, there may be hope on the horizon in the form of dance rock trio Disco Drive. The band has often been described as the Italian answer to the Klaxons, and their brand of punk funk fusion often brings that British foursome to mind. Disco Drive does have the ability to experiment now-and-again, with songs like the noise-drone “The Giant” (currently streaming on their MySpace) veering away from the majority of their tracks (which have the purpose of getting even the shyest of people on the dance floor).

With just two albums under their belt they’ve already played hundreds of shows throughout Europe (including the UK and Scandinavia) and have a strong fan base in their native country (they were nominated as one of the best live bands of 2005 by MTV Italy for example). Their tourmates include bands like Liars, !!!, Deerhoof, The Long Blondes, Hot Club de Paris, and the aformentioned Klaxons. They are definitely worth a listen, and are hopefully indicative of a growing indie rock force in the long-dormant Italy.