My Three for all this week features three female vocalists at completely different stages of their careers.
Up first, as I have just bought tickets to see her next year, is Florence + the Machine. Having never really joined in the hype around Florence with her first album Lungs, finding her cover of You’ve Got the Love particularly annoying, she has nevertheless changed my opinion of her with new album, Ceremonials.
The two singles released in advance of the album, What the Water Gave Me and Shake It Out, were both outstanding, the first a gothic epic in the same vein as Heavy in Your Arms, the song she contributed to the soundtrack of the last Twilight film, the second an uplifting example of Florence’s vocal range becoming an instrument itself, supported by organs and thumping drums.
The song I am choosing to spotlight though is album track Breaking Down, a piano-led song that would almost sound upbeat if it weren’t for the affecting lyrics, which Florence teases with subdued, whispering delivery. These, backed by further layers of her vocals and a choir, create the rich and atmospheric sound that is a feature of the album. A perfect pop hymn.
Next is the first track from Kate Bush’s outstanding new album, 50 Words for Snow.
I’ve liked Kate Bush for a while without really knowing too much about her, but the build up to the release of this album has been prominent on 6 Music, and opener Snowflake has been played several times, which is enough to compel you. It’s not a song you can easily shake off, as across its runtime of nearly ten minutes, its dramatic imagery floods your mind and stays there. While it may not make sense to some, she has somehow captured the sound of winter, whatever that may be.
I’m not sure anyone has written a concept album about snow before, despite it being an endlessly fascinating subject to take on. As even The Snowman showed, its fleeting existence can be heartbreaking, and figurative for so many other subjects, obvious ones being love and death. The darkness, the isolation, and the bleakness of a winter snowstorm is all captured within this sparse ballad of hushed vocals and piano. First person lyrics tell us of being born in a cloud and falling, longing to be caught. It’s a strangely desolate viewpoint.
Will Florence, or anyone else around at the moment for that matter, still be making music as original and captivating as this in 30 years time? It doesn’t seem likely.
This song, and album, was made for winter. In an interview, Kate Bush said that if she hadn't finished it soon enough, it would have had to wait to be released until next winter, so enjoy it while the nights are dark and long. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a winter walk under a dark orange sky, as snow silently falls around you. If it snows this winter, that’s what I’ll be doing.
Last up is an artist who is a musical toddler compared to Kate Bush. Elena Tonra aka Daughter, has been a revelation for me this year, despite only releasing a handful of songs across two EPs. This Londoner possesses a spellbinding voice, both delicate and forceful, and uses it to tell tragic tales of love and loss.
Her His Young Heart EP may be my most played release of the year, featuring four flawless acoustic songs. It can be listened to on Soundcloud here. And, as I’m generous and can’t pick just one, here are all four songs from her equally stunning new release, The Wild Youth EP, for you to enjoy.
I devastatingly missed her play in Birmingham in October with Benjamin Francis Leftwich, but hope she will return to the second city soon. She is one to watch for the future as 2012 will hopefully yield an album.