Single Review: Florence + the Machine – ‘Heavy In Your Arms’

Before I start, I’d like to take the time to ask: what on Earth is Florence doing? First, she waits until the seventh release from her genre-hopping début album ‘Lungs’ to release to best track on it (‘Cosmic Love’, which hit #3 in Ireland following the release of the album a year earlier than it’s UK release), after already re-packaging the album to contain her cover of ‘You[‘ve] Got The Love’. And now one of her best songs to date isn’t going to be part of the newly promised “crystal themed” album, but instead it’ll part of yet another re-release of the already wrung-dry-as-sandpaper ‘Lungs’.

Someone give that girl a rude awakening; did ‘Cosmic Love’ hitting just #51 not tell her anything?

But then it crosses your mind that, as well as it being a “new” song, ‘Heavy In Your Arms’ was also part of Twilight: Eclipse‘s soundtrack, so it’s not entirely “new”, technically speaking. Either Florence fails to realise her profile isn’t quite that big to be able to get away with this stuff or her management need firing. None-the-less, ‘Heavy In Your Arms’ has all the necessary qualities to counter all that, as well as have some steam left over once it’s fully made up for it’s difficult birth to single status.

Florence is probably most known for her abstract take on love songs, such as ‘Drumming Song’, who’s lyrics follow the protagonist’s desperation to be close to her lover but every time she approaches him, “an almighty sound… throws [her] to the ground”. And ‘Howl’, a song where Florence regrets allowing herself to succumb to her lover’s seduction, for once she did, she became a mutated beast of her original self, on the hunt and unable to leave the grasp of said lover. And her unique, stylised approach to the good ol’ ballad isn’t stopping there.

‘Heavy In Your Arms’ is all your typical Florence love song should be. It’s out with the sentimental, gushy lyrics and pretty piano riff and in with the deeply gothic imagery, sinister instrumental production, and her signature wail capable of calling down the Heavens. In the verses, she speaks rhythmically, whispering dark lyrics like “He took me took me to the river/Where he slowly let me drown”, almost like she’s just woken from a deep slumber. But when the chorus arrives, thundering drums join her unmistakable tones and from then on, it follows true Florence suit and relentlessly grows in size, getting bigger and bigger with it’s ghostly choirs and intensely chilling production which has all the violent horror of an old Hitchcock film with the heart-wrenching agony of staring into the remnants of a once strong relationship. Think of it like ‘Kiss With A Fist’ (from ‘Lungs’) without the camp, romping guitars and slap-stick lyrics (“You hit me once, I hit you back/You gave a kick, I gave a slap/You smashed a plate over my head/Then I set fire to our bed”). And yes, that does mean it’s all doom and gloom and no fun at all but life’s not always like that is it? No. It isn’t. Sadly.

Random bit that explains that video (skip if in a rush):

Now, on to that very understated video. If I were to put this video – in terms of artistic masterminding and overall effect – with another highly thought-out video, it would be up there with Lady GaGa’s ‘Alejandro’. But why?

Well, Florence has clearly read William Golding’s ‘Lord Of The Flies‘, hasn’t she? Have you noticed that white conch shell she keeps a hold of? Well, it’s recurring presence in the video can only mean one thing: Florence’s relationship with this mystery lover is gradually deteriorating, or already has, because she refuses/refused to let the conch leave her possession.

Bizarre thought, I know, but read ‘Lord Of The Flies‘ and it might make sense. In summary: the conch represents civilisation; order, and an equality in the societal “hierarchy” of said civilians and those who combine forces with others to achieve large, otherwise unobtainable goals, as well as offering a sense of sanctuary from those who support and care for you within your “civilisation”; this is also known as social harmony. But Florence keeps the white conch to herself, so the harmony of the relationship is in stalemate because order is not balanced, or shared, between her and her lover; she and her “heavy heart” aren’t respecting what should be a naturally occurring civility with him.

As well as that, there’s that lily to discuss, the one her lover throws down beside her which he then tramples on. White lilies are a symbol of purity and/or innocence, and often even symbolise a woman’s virginity, but it has other connotations, some even as diverse as an omen of an untimely death of murder, with is expanded upon in the opening verse – “My love has concrete feet/My love’s an iron ball/Wrapped around your ankles/Over the waterfall”.

This could be an explanation to why Florence is actually “heavy in your arms”, and it’s is also mirrored in the white robe she wears, in contrast to her lover’s attire: the torn, draping black robe and hidden face has always been an image related to the “Grim Reaper” which appears to play no major part in said storyline but I’m guessing it’s added to continue the theme of gothic imagery.

Florence could be this burden portrayed in the sense of a something physical (with Florence being carried on the back of her lover for the most part of the video) or in a psychological sense because she’s actually the controlling one in the relationship, being ignorant of societal norms or refusing to reach some kind of functioning agreement.

End of random bit the explains the video.

Mmm… Conchy goodness.

Even though it’s part of a Christmas cash-in release, ‘Heavy In Your Arms’ is easily one of Florence’s best singles (and album tracks) to date, marrying sinister samples and twisted lyricism to make a perfectly gothic love song, but also managing to retain sentiment and desperation through her vocal performance. Just don’t listen to it on your own and in the dark, now that would be scary.

Rating: 5.0 STARS

Download: November 15, 2010 (OUT NOW)

Featured Album: ‘Between Two Lungs’

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