Florence Welch

Behind every music genre is a dynamic female artist who is further developing the genre’s sound. Check out four female musicians challenging the status quo.  

1) Brittany Howard

Looking back on Brittany Howard’s brief but impressive career as the lead singer of blues-rock band Alabama Shakes, it’s almost comedic the song that made her famous featured the lyrics “I don’t know where I’m gonna go / Don’t know what I’m gonna do.” Howard’s career might have seemed uncertain in 2012 — the year she released the Alabama Shakes’ first album, Boys & Girls — but, three years later, the Alabama Shakes has three Grammy nominations, spots on the “Silver Linings Playbook” and “12 Years a Slave” sound tracks, and two Saturday Night Live performances under its belt.

Howard’s beautifully androgynous voice serves as the foundation of the band’s deep blues-rock sound. She effortlessly explores octaves most female artists can’t reach and certainly can’t maintain without strain. The band’s April 21 release of its sophomore album, Sound & Color, relies on her vocal abilities more than Boys & Girls did. Howard, an Alabama native, takes listeners on a loud, emotional ride through issues of desire, loneliness and the struggle for power.

Artist you might like — Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones

Listen to Alabama Shakes' "Sound & Color" here:

 

2) Florence Welch

Florence + the Machine is arguably the most commercially successful female-led band to emerge from the U.K. since the Spice Girls. By age 28, lead singer Florence Welch will have recorded three full-length indie-rock albums with the band. The festival-favorite’s third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, will be released June 2.

Welch’s dark, daring sound successfully revitalizes the rock subgenre baroque pop that emphasizes the use of string instruments not common to popular music, including violins and cellos.

The three singles the English singer-songwriter prereleased — “What Kind of Man,” “Ship to Wreck” and “St Jude” — reflect her brooding style, spooky vocals and affinity for dance music. If the singles are any indication, this album will be performance ready, making this tour a must-see.

Artist you might like — Lykke Li, Annie Lennox, Belle and Sebastian, Regina Spektor

Listen to Florence + the Machine's "What Kind of Man" now:

 

3) Niia Bertino

Niia Bertino, 26, may be the least commercially accomplished artist on the list, but she certainly has the most musical training. The classically trained pianist, who goes by “Niia,” learned from a number of Juilliard vocalists, attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and won a National Foundation for Advancements in the Arts award for her jazz vocals.

Bertino’s appeared on the scene in 2007 when her vocals were featured on Wyclef Jean’s hip-hop single “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill).” Seven years later, Bertino released her first and only solo record, Generation Blue. The six-track EP is short but sweet. Her jazzy vocals and expert piano skills shine on the track “Body.”

Bertino is an emerging artist who speaks for her generation. The single “Telephone” is a beautiful ode to the role communication plays in a modern relationship with lyrics such as “I love it when you text me first / I love it a little too much” and “Yeah my line’s wide open / You just keep me holding.”

Artist you might like — Fiona Apple, Björk, Nina Simone

​Listen to Niia's "Body" here:

 

4) Mackenzie Scott

A decade from now, Mackenzie Scott, the singer-songwriter behind Torres, might be the poster-child for southern rock. Born in Macon, Georgia, Scott moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Belmont University, where she graduated from in 2012. After graduating, the 24 year old recorded her debut, self-titled album, which nails the indie-rock-meets-folk sound so many southern artists attempt to achieve. Music publication site Pitchfork named her debut single, “Honey,” best new track and gave her album 8.1 out of 10.

A master of pacing and clever lyricism, Scott writes and records songs that are guitar heavy with minimal production. Whether she’s performing a solo acoustic set or with her band during South By Southwest, Scott commands listeners’ attention thanks to her deep, raspy vocals, quintessential to southern rock.

Scott’s second album, Sprinter, comes out Monday. Torres will perform at The Mohawk on Saturday. Tickets are $10 and doors open at 9 p.m.  

Artist you might like — Sharon Van Etten, Cat Power, Waxahatchee

Listen to Torres' "Honey" now:

 

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys plays on the Bud Light Stage Friday night.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Out-of-town artists and musicians at this weekend’s Austin City Limits Music Festival received a good sampling of the unpredictable weather that is characteristic of an Austin fall. High humidity and ominous clouds loomed overhead all day Friday and Saturday until the rain finally began to fall late Saturday afternoon. While some festival attendees took refuge under umbrellas, ponchos and pavilions, others opened their arms and embraced the refreshing yet inconvenient precipitation. Bands continued to play, crowds continued to bounce and festival hippies continued to walk barefoot through the grass.

This year’s turbulent incarnation will be remembered as the last one-weekend ACL before it expands to two weekends next year. 

FRIDAY:

Umphrey’s McGee: 
Umphrey’s McGee proved its musical versatility through epic, genre-transcending songs that seemed to have no end. The guitar work was some of the best heard all weekend and showcased the members’ shred abilities. The band’s chemistry and raw musical talent went unmatched by any other act of the night. Crowd members with no previous experience stared in awe at the six-man human mix tape.  
“I heard them while walking out to go home but they were so good I had to stay,” John Shields from New Jersey said. “The best part of this festival isn’t the bands that you know, it’s the bands that you don’t know. And the chicks.”

Florence + The Machine: 
“We are Florence and the Machine, we come from England, and we have a reputation for demanding human sacrifices,” Florence Welch, lead singer of Florence + The Machine said at the opening of the band’s hour-long set. The dynamic show was one of the most enjoyable performances of the day, audience members said. Welch wore one of her signature ball gowns and took the stage in a slow, steady saunter. Her charm lay in the way she would quickly transform from an ethereal dominatrix bellowing out guttural verses, to a giddy schoolgirl skipping across the stage in her black Mary Janes. The set ended in a massive jumping spree to the band’s hit, “Dog Days Are Over.”

The Black Keys:
The rockers gave an energetic performance that included an array of new hits, as well as older, bluesy tunes from albums in their extensive library. The band relied mainly on its music to provide entertainment, and there was very little commentary given by lead-singer Dan Auerbach. Fans didn’t seem to object to the lack of banter, and danced along to the garage rock stylings until the set ended.

SATURDAY:

Father John Misty:
Lead singer Josh Tillman came prepared for his set at the Austin Ventures stage. Carrying a bottle of Tito’s Vodka and wearing a pair of red, heart-shaped sunglasses, Tillman opened the band’s highly energetic and eclectic set in a prayer laced with sarcasm. In true Tillman fashion, he held his steadily emptying bottle of liquor and yelled, “I’m ready for anything now. Just try to fuck with me!” The entire set seesawed the line between entertaining and outright ridiculous, a common theme in Father John Misty’s performances.

Jack White:
Appearing on stage with a seven-piece all-girl backup band, White played songs like The White Stripes’ global hit “Seven Nation Army” and that one Raconteurs song, concisely summarizing his prolific career within an hour and 30 minutes. His expert guitar playing was supplemented by a wide array of instruments like pedal steel guitar and organ, providing an alternative to the old-school Neil Young crowd.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse:
The crowd  was filled with everyone from neon-clad teenagers to middle-aged men wearing shirts from previous Neil Young tours. Young and his band of graying, balding rock stars took the stage before thousands. Long instrumental breaks were frequent and several songs lasted for more than 15 minutes. Audience members didn’t seem to mind the altered versions of classic songs such as “Cinnamon Girl” and “Down By The River” as everyone was held in awe by the sheer fact that they were given the chance to see the rock legend live.

SUNDAY:

Stars:
The Canadian indie band cosmically fascinated, playing old tunes like “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and new songs from their latest album, The North. Dual lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan engaged in conversational vocals while drummer Patrick McGee displayed his 30 years of experience through incredible syncopation in a classic stadium rock drum setup. The provocative and sensual lyrics even provoked one audience member to throw her bra on stage. Afterward, Campbell exclaimed, “We’re going to come back to your town and blow your fuckin’ mind!” at which point McGee hurled his drumsticks into the unsuspecting crowd.

Two Door Cinema Club:
Back for their second festival since 2010, Two Door Cinema Club lit up the stage with alternative rock music that feels tailor-made for atmospheres like ACL’s. Crowd surfers were common and teenage girls were sporadically hoisted above the bobbing heads of the sweaty, bikini-clad throng. The entire crowd clapped their hands and danced along as the performance came to a close with the band’s hit “What You Know” from their first album, Tourist History

 

Review

On Florence + The Machine’s new album, Ceremonials, lead singer Florence Welch belts powerful vocals. (Photo courtesy of Florence + The Machine)

Florence + the Machine’s sophomore album, Ceremonials, is a musical force of nature. Pulsing beats reverberate while frontwoman Florence Welch’s tornado vocals whir madly around the eye of the storm’s cooing choral influences.

The album follows Florence + the Machine’s 2009 album, Lungs, keeping the same affinity for melodrama but showcasing how Welch’s voice has evolved, becoming more full-bodied. Ceremonials blends gospel, rock and soul influences to create a hauntingly romantic sound that simultaneously spooks and soothes.

The beginning of “Strangeness and Charm” is ignited by hand claps that become the pulsing heartbeat of the song, carrying the listener through electronic waves and Welch’s otherworldly vocals that chant and echo lyrics, “Feel it on me love.” However, a bridge of fluttering harp strings and anarchic wails distract from the ethereal and cathedral-worthy resonance of the track.

The chanting continues on “Shake It Out,” an inspiring single about leaving your regrets behind. Welch belts out, “It’s hard to dance with a devil on your back/So shake him off,” making this more than a song you can’t help but sing along to, but an infectious anthem with which to start the day.

Quintessential Florence + the Machine powerhouse vocals take over on “No Light, No Light” as Welch juxtaposes fragile lyrics about watching the light drain from her lover’s eyes with a fortitude of punching vocals and pounding drums. The pulverizing beats take a moment of silence while Welch blasts a showy 13-second note that only substitutes one kind of loud with another.

However, Welch doesn’t rely on full-throttle vocals for single “What the Water Gave Me.” The first verse eerily whispers lyrics over metronome-like jingling, as if Welch is letting the listener in on a secret afterthought. With lyrics, “But oh my love, don’t forget me/I let the water take me,” Welch dramatically channels her inner Ophelia as she sings about letting overflowing water take her away from earth and the chorus’ chilling vocals echo like a prayer sung at her funeral by a chamber choir in a candlelit church.

The chorus of “Leave My Body,” features yet another choir and, in turn, loses its charm on this track. Rock and gospel come together as Welch soulfully croons about leaving her physical body for a more spiritual life. Despite the formulaic chorus, the spooky and tense verses prove Welch doesn’t need to belt it out to make a statement with her voice.

Welch redefines powerhouse vocals as she plunges into lyrics that make you think and powers through beats that make you want to move. From the first subtle tremor to the final thundering roar, Ceremonials is the storm you can feel coming, proving that sometimes bigger is better. 

Printed on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 as: Florence's sophomore success relies on strong vocals, beats