Album Review: Florence + The Machine, ‘How Big How Blue How Beautiful’
While it seemed like ages since 2011's Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine never really left us. With the success of tracks like "Dog Days Are Over" and "Shake It Out," Florence Welch and company managed to maintain their presence amongst the masses. However, we're more than happy to have some new material in our hands with the U.K. band's latest release, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, which hit the streets on June 2 via Island Records.
With Welch at the helm as chief songwriter, she also worked with a number of other people including bandmate Isabella Summers, James Ford (who also worked with her on 2009's Lungs) and Ester Dean, who's written for the likes of Katy Perry and Rihanna but is also known for her role in the Pitch Perfect films. No matter who she worked with, the album takes us into the inner workings of her mind, and judging by the lyrics, there's a lot of emotion going on there -- as there usually is when it comes to Florence and the Machine.
Unlike other albums that like to lead up to a big bang of energy and sound, How Big How Blue How Beautiful does the complete opposite. Kicking things off with "Ship to Wreck," which has quickly become a catchy hit amongst fans, the tracklist continues to pack that punch with "What Kind of Man" and "Delilah." While there is a similarity in the orchestration and even vocals on the first four songs, which also includes "Queen of Peace," the title-track is the one that stands out for us. From the slow and delicate way it starts off to the way it crescendos with the rhythm and horns sections, there's something about it that just grabs you and makes you understand why she decided to go with this as the album's title. But instrumentation aside, the lyrics are uplifting as she sings about looking at the big world around her.
While they have teased us with a number of songs, the second half of the album, with the exception of "St. Jude," really hasn't been heard until now. And it's a good thing, too, because it gives us the other side of what Welch is trying to convey. Songs like "Long & Lost" and "Caught" sound a lot more chilled out, and she ends with "Mother," which is quite a spiritual experience. While it repeats a lot of the lyrics, there's something about it that makes you want to close your eyes and head toward some kind of destination.
How Big How Blue How Beautiful shows Florence and the Machine's ability to stay true to their epic and orchestral sounds while creating much more approachable music compared to their past two albums. While it's a great listening experience through your headphones, it's clear that the new material is made for the live stage.