New music: Florence and the Machine – What the Water Gave Me

The new Florence single – which references Frida Kahlo and Virginia Woolf – has a lofty premise, but never collapses under the weight of its own drama

It's a cliche that usually involves a reference to Marmite, but Florence and the Machine divide opinion. You either – wait for it – love them or hate them, and because of Florence Welch's voice, an instrument that can flit between tremulous and strident in an instant. Their ubiquity last summer – festival appearances, radio play, TV idents – has meant that it's been hard to actually miss them and it was widely assumed a new album would probably surface in 2012. On Monday, however, it was announced that their second album would be out this November. This news was accompanied by a brand new song, What the Water Gave Me. With a title taken from a Frida Kahlo painting and a lyric referencing Virginia Woolf, it's a lofty premise for a pop song – Welch mixing images of suicide with declarations of undying love over fluttering harp and robust guitar. Co-written by Francis White, whose past credits include Adele's Chasing Pavements and Will Young's Leave Right Now, it also has enough melody to stop it from collapsing under the weight of its own drama. This delicate balance gives the song its edge.

• What the Water Gave Me is available to download now, with an album to follow on 7 November.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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