Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Florence and the Machine – Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

Eventually, we will run out of British women. Not today, though…


Anthony Easton: I have no idea whether this is a 10 or a 1.

Ian Mathers: In a weird way, parts of this remind me of the Eurythmics, or at least Annie Lennox, but more in the vocal delivery than anything else. And that’s a good thing; like Lennox Florence Welch has a powerful instrument and a good idea of what to do with it. “Raise It Up (Rabbit Heart)” benefits as well from being so sonically maximalist without ever seeming overstuffed or overbearing – but when the chorus crashes in, there have been few more thrilling moments in 2009 so far. The way Florence sings that she “must become a lion-hearted girl” points towards another key influence, and god help me, on the basis of this song alone I think Kate Bush comparisons may indeed be in order.

Edward Okulicz: Very impressive; how often do you see a female singer-songwriter whose soundscapes and compositions have the same epic scale and ambition of Kate Bush without slavishly imitating her? In terms of lushness and overall popness, this is probably closer to a more bonkers Eurythmics, anyway, eclectic and individualistic without resorting to quirky, and its hook is muscular not timid. The chorus is pure and striking and there seems to be some dissonant layer of meaning underneath it that intrigues. Listen and learn, Marina & The Diamonds.

Martin Kavka: The video looks like a making-of film about the cover of M83’s Saturdays = Youth album, but the song is quite handily described as retro-Kate Bush, or para-Imogen Heap. The layering of the vocals distracts from the thinness of her voice, which is a blessing. I have no idea what the song is about, but if it is (as I suspect, without knowing why) about losing one’s virginity, it’s the best song on this topic in ages.

Michaelangelo Matos: There’s some kind of early-’80s grandeur here I find weirdly fetching, especially since the grandeur is similar to that which marked lots of music from that period that doesn’t do it for me at all. The big piano pile-on of the chorus ought to offend me more than it does. I’m sure lots of other people here will despise it, but something about it draws me in, even though it reminds me a lot of, no kidding, a cross between Jim Steinman and Kate Bush.

Chuck Eddy: Dance-oriented lion-hearted Summer Solstice unicorn-folk galloping through the woods — I’d never expect to love this, but I do. Midas turns her golden; in spring she sheds her skin. First I was thinking Stevie Nicks or Kate Bush, but maybe it’s more… who? Sophie B. Hawkins? Grace Slick?? Teena Marie??? Okay maybe not, but still has a real lush push, reams of momentum from the backup chorus, chasing rabbits up that hill to Emerald City. The “raise it up!” incantations feel legitimately disco — recalls some long-lost “[Verb] It Up” dance classic I can’t place.

Iain Mew: Bloody hell this record is crowded. I’d heard it on the radio and not minded it, but on headphones it’s another matter. None of its hundred or so elements is given any space or time to breathe whatsoever, and the fact that it starts off as too much means that in trying to reach for ever bigger climaxes it just becomes even more confused and abrasive. There, I didn’t even have to mention Bat for Lashes.

Hillary Brown: Well, it’s at least interesting and kind of multilayered and whatnot. This could use some kind of direction to focus its ADHD, but it’s got some nice, echoey production, and her voice is, well, something.

Martin Skidmore: I’m all for soulful influences, but in indie this often comes with dreadful singing that can’t remotely live up to that ambition. Florence sounds okay in the higher register, awful when she gets throaty. The lyrics are twaddle with poetic aspirations, and the music at its best is utterly forgettable.

Doug Robertson: The bestowing of the Brits Critic Choice award has leaked its poison into this song, turning the verses into a uninspired slop which, combined with an over reliance on bellowing to disguise the empty nature of things, nearly drags this song into death knell of Jo Whiley Record of the Week territory. But, just when all seems lost, the chorus kicks in, turning those bellows in to a soaring wall of, well, slightly bellowy brilliance, but with enough kick behind it to distance itself from its leaden launch pad. She’s getting away with it now, but if she doesn’t watch out, her Machine’s going to need the sort of rewiring you don’t want a qualified electrician to do.

13 Responses to “Florence and the Machine – Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”

  1. I was surprised to like this as much as I do. Probably a big part of that is down to the ‘density’ Iain refers to, or what is deemed grandeur by Matos. I like the reasonably euphoric shift towards the end. And yeah it’s all v comparable to Bat For Lashes but that’s fine by me with this much drive and depth. Not that it’s exceptional in these respects but still a solid feelgood 8 (dropping to 7 whenever it clouds over).

  2. Not sure where I got Teena and Sophie and Stevie and Grace out of that British accent; probably had more to do with her overall vibe than her voice. But I’ve always had major reservations about Lennox and Kate Bush (despite having the utmost respect for them both, and liking a smattering of songs), and this song hits me as warmer and more visceral and ultimately less thin than they generally do. So I dunno…Bonnie Tyler?? (Nah, too Rod Stewart-like. .But at least she was Welsh, and had Jim Steinman on her side.)

  3. Martin K. should watch Hello Saferide’s “X Telling Me About the Loss of Something Dear, at Age 16” if he hasn’t already. Very likely to hold that particular title for some time for me.

  4. The title is a link there by the way, in case it isn’t showing up obviously for anyone else either.

  5. Thanks for the reminder, Iain. I was nonplussed by that Hello Saferide album when it came out, but I’d forgotten the glories of that song (which I’d think was too literal were it not for the shoe-store scene in the final verse).

  6. LOL@ chuck eddy liking this enya shit

  7. I really enjoy this fan-vid of Rabbit Heart better than the original video

  8. I want to know the meaning behind the song. Am I naive in thinking that there is one? Usually songs are quite two dementional but this feels like there is more to it.

    I liked the song the first time I heard it on the radio, the only reason I looked up the lyrics was because my boyfriend and I couldn’t agree one what one of the lines said. The lyrics seem quite deep but a bit sad.

    What do you think ?

  9. look/search A FINE FRENZY: florence, stole her style!!!

  10. It very much confuses me as to why people seem content in critiquing Florence’s voice – if any of these people had bothered to consider listening to more of her music, I can assure you they would find that her style of singing is anything other than “thin”. Having listened to her rendition of “You Got The Love” several times, I even happen even to find this opinion rather laughable.

    Despite obvious comparisons to that of perhaps Bat For Lashes, Annie Lennox and maybe A Fine Frenzy (although Kate Nash – what??), I find that she has adapted the style in her own way, and the lyrics are also genius and original, and had my sister and I cock-eared for hours after we finally managed to recognise the obvious Metamorphoses myth reference in the chorus. As for the layering being rather over-crowded, in some sense I agree, but also believe that it does nothing to damage the song apart from perhaps making it more easy to dance to, and for that i’m not complaining.

    Simply put, awesome song, great singer. Couldn’t ask for more :)


  11. Dear reviewers (some of you, anyway), maybe if you had a clue what the song is about, you would be able to appreciate the lyrics. Just try and be a little bit less lazy and stuck-up, you know.
    It’s about getting into the music business, the limelight, and having to sacrifice something in the process. The chorus with the Midas metaphor is an incredibly beautiful yet sad way to express, “I’m making music, but if I want to keep on making it, and people to hear it, I’ll probably have a record label turn me into a marketable product and squeeze every last bit of cash out of me.”

  12. Does anyone else get a frisson of tantalising excitement when these random googler comments pop up on the side bar while you wait to see what song they’re talking about?

    Apropos of Florence, I find it hilarious that she had to pay royalties to Gang Gang Dance for nicking bits of “House Jam” for this; it means her two big hits are both almost entirely down to other people and their way superior songs.

  13. Did anyone see the version of Rabbit Heart on Live from Abbey Road? I was spectacular because the background vocals were brought down to a minimum leaving her voice alone to shine through those notes and lyrics unobstructed and powerful and clean… Gave me the chills- check it on Youtube…