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Coachella, beyond the main stage: Florence + the Machine drapes its pop elegance with a snarl

April 13, 2010 |  3:15 pm

COACHELLA COUNTDOWN: In the days leading up to the three-day Indio fest that begins Friday, Pop & Hiss gives you the reasons to arrive before the headliners. 

Who: Florence + the Machine

From: London

Reason to care: Let's get this out of the way: The act tours with a harpist. But don't stop reading yet. Florence + the Machine, led by red-headed wailer Florence Welch, isn't aiming for Björk-inspired oddness, nor does Welch seem eager to become the continent's celestial-heir Kate Bush, with whom her love of mysticism is often compared. But make no mistake, Welch can sing -- just check her cover of Candi Staton's "You've Got the Love," in which she shows off her soul-scorching pipes over a crisp, digitally glazed dance-pop arrangement. Welch's debut, "Lungs," was largely ignored in the U.S., a wrong that can be corrected Sunday afternoon. This is expansive stuff, and it comes with a knife-sharp blade. Need evidence? Welch croons like a top 40 answer to PJ Harvey on "Girl With One Eye," a devilishly Gothic blues number. "My reputation's kinda clouded with dirt," Welch sings, a moment that's full of cabaret-ready pride. 

Listen: Start with the rock ''n' roll raver "Kiss With a Fist," above, which shares a guitar scruff with Ida Maria and a theatricality with Regina Spektor. But it wastes no time in baring its fangs -- or its hooks. 

Fun fact: A press bio boasts that Welch writes her best songs when she's drunk, and while that reeks of cred-inducing bragging, it may help explain why the art-school dropout has been reported to perform in a Captain America outfit. 

What's next: After being nominated for pretty much every award that exists in the U.K., and winning best album at the Brit Awards, Florence + the Machine will head back overseas to work the market that's thus far been most accepting of the act. Meanwhile, the hand clap-boosted belter that opens "Lungs," "Dog Days Are Over," has just been released as a single. 

-- Todd Martens


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