Florence and the Machine, 'Lungs' (Universal/Island)

Critical Mass

by Melissa Maerz

Calling all crazy ex-girlfriends: If you're gonna keep up with Florence Welch, you might need stronger meds.

In the U.K., where Lungs has become 2009's best-selling debut, this London based siren is already infamous for "Kiss With a Fist," a fizzy punk stiletto-stomper on which she breaks her boyfriend's jaw and sets his bed on fire. Elsewhere, she cuts out a girl's eye and even gobbles up some poor guy, savoring his texture and flavor like a nice pinot noir. ("The fabric of your flesh / Pure as a wedding dress," she raves. Yum!)

Consumption is a fitting metaphor for Welch, who has never felt an emotion she couldn't crank into the red. From the way she sings, in big gulps and Teen Wolf growls, to the mystical art-rock ballads she bedazzles with sleigh bells, harps, and choirs, there's enough drama here for a Broadway musical. But her delivery is so raw that every mess feels genuine. On "Dog Days Are Over," she sings so delicately about a happiness that hits you "like a train" that you feel protective. And on "Hurricane Drunk," she arrives at a simple, heartbreaking solution to seeing an ex with someone else: "I'm going out / I'm gonna drink myself to death." You've gotta hand it to the girl: She always makes you feel something -- even if that "something" is suicidal.



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