The BBC's annual poll to find the "Sound" of the forthcoming year has rapidly developed its own self-fulfilling critical mass, nowhere better illustrated than in the performance of Florence and the Machine's singles so far.
Between June and December of last year, her first three releases successively reached 51, 89 and 158 in the singles charts, a sad trajectory of deepening failure. But since being acclaimed by the Beeb as one of this year's hot prospects, blanket media coverage and radio airplay has managed to hoist her fourth single to number 12, still no landslide, but you see what I mean. By the end of this year, record labels will be manoeuvring all their promotion simply towards ensuring a top-five placing in the poll, virtually ensuring their artist will repeat the success of Duffy, Adele, Little Boots and, surely, Florence.
To her credit, at least Flo hasn't opted to follow the tepid retro-electropop fizz of Little Boots, La Roux and Lady Madonna – sorry, Gaga. Nor has she been persuaded into the vanilla-soul diva mode, a style which, as this album's bonus track version of Candi Staton's "You've Got the Love" demonstrates, she is more than equipped to carry off with her powerful voice and impassioned delivery.
The standard comparisons wheeled out for her – Kate Bush and Björk – are well wide of the mark, Florence so far displaying little of their diversity, both musically and thematically. The closest comparison is surely Bat for Lashes, whose whimsical witchiness and animal metaphors are reflected here in songs such as "Dog Days Are Over" ("... the horses are coming, so you better run") and the current single "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)", where she seeks to "become the lion-hearted girl, ready for a fight", reaching an apogee in the moon-touched feral romance of "Howl". Elsewhere, her attraction to the dark side is apparent in the grim metaphors of "My Boy Builds Coffins" and "Kiss with a Fist", the latter dramatising in metaphorical violence the mental anguish of romantic break-up.
Musically, it's one of the more engaging tracks here, its brutal, shabby rockabilly grind capped with a frantic two-note guitar break emblematic of the collision between immovable opposed attitudes. "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" and "Dog Days Are Over" are the two other most successful realisations of the harp-and-drums formula, though as these are three of the four singles whose lacklustre progress I referred to above, this doesn't bode well for the rest. It would be a surprise, given the weight of media coverage, if Lungs didn't scale the higher reaches of the album chart, but am I alone in considering it yet another case of a lot being made of too little?
Download this: 'Dog Days Are Over', 'Kiss with a Fist', 'Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)'