Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Florrie - Introduction (2010) EP Review

Florrie is the stage name of British singer-songwriter Florence Arnold, who first rose to the pop world's attention as a drummer. Doing session work in her late teens and eventually becoming in-house drummer for Brian Higgins' Xenomania songwriting and production team (a prolific hit factory, but best known for effectively being the creative brains behind Girls Aloud), Florrie struck out on her own as a solo artist in 2010. Florrie has played a long game up until now, avoiding any major label signings in favour of remaining independent and pursuing a less orthodox means of publicising her work - plenty of free releases, promotional work with fashion labels, and a strong internet presence. Introduction is the first of three complete EPs from Florrie and it can be downloaded gratis from her website.

EPs are a pretty good way of getting to know what makes an artist tick, and you'll quickly make up your mind if they're worth following or not. When there's only a handful of songs to get through, not only is the listener's attention more focused, but the artist's should be also. If they give you an album that's half filler, you can sometimes forgive them for that if the rest is cool - but at barely past a quarter of an hour any turkeys will stand out all the more.

By sticking to short releases while unsigned Florrie has managed to gain a reasonable amount of interest, and a small fanbase, without making any listener commit to a longer work, saving this for when there's more marketing weight behind her. The reason this seems to be working is that the EPs are pretty great and showcase exactly what she's about, allowing her to standout somewhat from the masses of indistinguishable pop acts. She also benefits from having the proven abilities of Xenomania behind her, with Higgins' team producing all the tracks on this EP. So what is she about? Going through the four songs, Introduction grabs your attention right away with:

"Call of the Wild", which is a pop-rock/Drum and bass crossover, slanting more toward the former than the latter. The fast beats keep this one driving along, but what makes it stick in your mind are the playful vocals, the really cool bass riff (that also gets followed by the electric guitar after the chorus) and the sweet synth accompaniment (including a gated trance riff) that back everything up. I really like this one, touching as it does several of my favourite musical elements, and having the fastest and most insistent track to kick the EP off is a great idea.

"Give Me Your Love" brings the tempo down to more obvious pop territory but stands out, not only because of the simple but effective guitar and piano that provide the core melodic and harmonic elements of the track, but also the great drumming in the softer moments of the song which distinguishes this from more pedestrian pop fare. Not content with just a 4x4 beat, Florrie gives the verses plenty of groove and syncopation, the most obvious nod on this album to her instrument of choice. Her distinctive voice sounds great matched with this music too - and as the track ends, it leads nicely into the more upfront dance beat of...

"Summer Nights" is a real disco track - as soon as I heard the electric guitar I thought of disco house producer Boris D'Lugosch, or perhaps the big hitters from way back in 2000, Spiller and Modjo (with less filter sound). Florrie goes from quick and flirty in the verses to strong and heavily processed in the chorus - there's a really cool use of artificial harmonising  in this which stands out nicely, rather than just having a nasty hard Auto-tune flavour. But there's also plenty of synth work on here, raising a few comparisons with the French House sound as well and giving this a fairly modern aesthetic which makes it old school enough to have a broad appeal but preventing it from sounding like a relic.

"Left too Late" is a clear case of leaving the best until last. This is a proper big-production dance pop track - but it doesn't start off like one. It opens with a simple subtractive synth keyboard sound and continues with a simple sliding bassline under Florrie's gentle singing in the verse, making you think this is going to be fairly stripped back synthpop track - until it layers up in the prechorus, and finally  all the strings, thicker synth chords and higher vocals bring the dynamics up to a really strong and catchy chorus. This one's a real winner and is the sort of track that demonstrates the mainstream crossover potential Florrie has - it's like a really good Girls Aloud song, only with personality.

All of these are dancefloor ready, catchy and slick tuneful pop. Unlike s/he, who are a pop band with a strong alternative streak, Florrie's appeal is much more mainstream, but thankfully not bland and middle of the road. The songs on this EP don't waste your time - no gimmicks, no overdone production, and no pandering, in a refreshingly old-school approach to pop music that uses her voice and personality to the fullest while delivering the polish you'd expect from a Xenomania production. This is an excellent start to Florrie's discography. Go check it out and download it for free!

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