Besides her innate songwriting talent, Florence Welch’s unbounded, esoteric expressivity always manages to shine through on every project. Whether it be from her physical soul-stirring movement in the visual accompaniment of the “Florence + The Machine” 2015 album, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” “The Odyssey” to the grounded vocals of “Ceremonials,” Welch’s talent knows no bounds. She is a personal artist at her core, and this single reaffirms her ability to craft personal pathos into ethereal soundscapes.
The band’s most recent album, “Dance Fever,” perhaps features the most distinct identity of their work yet. Gothic fiction and folk horror elements are at the heart of the project, with both the dark and light sides of each respectively weaving their influence on the tracklist. “Mermaids,” released on Apr. 21, is only featured on the deluxe version of the album, but slots right into the overarching theme and tone perfectly.
The dichotomy created by the aforementioned sides is best alluded to through Welch’s referencing of her home country. “England is only ever grey or green / The girls glitter striding glorious and coatless in the rain / I remember falling through these streets / Somewhat out of place, if not for the drunkenness.” Beauty is somehow found within the omnipresent gloom of rainfall. Welch’s lyrics coincide with her personal experiences; her wide-ranging vocal capabilities only enrich the plethora of subjects that are touched upon.
Nature and its ever-changing state are juxtaposed with the underlying themes alluding to Welch’s pain on her path to sobriety. The repeated phrase “Cheerful oblivion” sums up this feeling, emphasizing the safety of performing on stage presents. This escape would not be possible without the embrace of all of life’s struggles, a wonderful ode to how solace can be found where it is least expected.
However, this time is short. The mythical nature of mermaids is compared to a fleeting feeling, with each only presenting themselves following a physical act of sacrifice. “And the mermaids, they come once a year / They climb the struts of Brighton Pier / They come to drink, they come to dance / To sacrifice a human heart / And the world is so much wilder than you think / You haven’t seen anything till you see an English girl drink.” While the mermaids are beautiful, their act is borne out of harm. This is similar to how addiction promises to temporarily offer a sense of security that only becomes even more unattainable as the cycle repeats.A shadow-like ambiance arises through the graceful production. The listener is ushered by a celestial choir that steadily increases in volume, eventually serving as backing to an even larger build-up of a graceful blend of incantations. The song’s structure is rather similar to “Delilah” off of her 2015 record, serving as a masterful exercise in pure power that crescendos and fades. Each verse pushes the pendulum back and forth, thereby balancing the album’s overarching concept of the presence of darkness in light. It is because of these simple yet poignant ideas that the band creates such a unique sound, and why they will continue to do so.
Verdict: “Mermaids” meshes seamlessly into “Dance Fever,” maintaining the standard of the album, and cannot be rendered a mere “bonus B-side track.”