I don't usually write or talk about music because I generally I prefer it to be a private experience, but I want to share my love for an artist I've become obsessed with. She makes me dance around even when my balance isn't good and my legs are weak and aching.
A few weeks ago, my beautiful mother drove me downtown to pick up a copy of Florence and the Machine's album "Lungs." I'd already fallen in love with her performances on youtube and appreciated her celebration of breathing, having been short of breath because of post-viral asthma. What a set of lungs indeed! I remember getting out of the car to go to Indigo as I choked on the cold air and wondering if her album would upset me. Would "Lungs" make me jealous of Florence's lung capacity? Would I get so excited while listening to it that my asthma would get worse?
As I knew I would while I listened to "Lungs", I found myself imagining myself dancing and singing with Florence when I recovered -- not just from the asthma, but from my mysterious long-term illness. Throughout my time feeling sick, I had found myself mostly listening to Radiohead and Fleet Foxes, which definitely hadn't made me want to dance. I think subconsciously I usually avoided upbeat music because I was afraid it would make me yearn to have a healthy, exciting life again. That's why I was nervous about Florence, anyway. I knew I would only imagine future fun times while I listened to her.
Usually albums remind me of a mood, place or time in which I'd most often listened to it. Broken Social Scene's "You Forgot it in People," reminds me of swaying palm trees on Waikiki Beach and Bjork's "Vespertine" reminds me of periods of intense sadness during my fourth-year quarter-life crisis. "Lungs" is a bit different because it makes me think of the future instead of the present. What will this album remind me of? My illness? Or maybe it will transport me to an imaginary time when I always felt healthy and energetic?
I've chosen not to describe her music to people to whom I've raved about her. What does describing the music or the lyrics accomplish? I don't think it helps critics help readers figure out if they will enjoy the music. Take this quote from Rolling Stone's review of "Lungs":
"The best bits feel like being chased through a moonless night by a sexy moor witch."
What does this mean? The critic is describing the feeling Florence's album evoked in HIM, but how is that a critique or analysis? Am I supposed to think, "Hmm. I've always wanted to know what it feels like to be 'chased through a moonless night by a sexy moor witch,' so I think I'll buy this album"? No! And who's to say Florence's album will evoke the same feelings in me anyway? I just don't see the point.
I will describe this album a bit, though. Lots of harp, gasping, pounding drums, death, love, etc. Usually music makes me fall more in love with the present, but Florence helps me escape from it. Maybe the harp makes me dream.
This illness has permeated every aspect of my life. It hurts me that it has even played a role in the music I choose to listen to, but at least with Florence I remember what strength and wellness feel like. It feels so attainable and I know I'll get there again. I'm coming, Florence!