Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Album Review)

I always pictured Florence Welch as a mythical figure. With previous albums, Lungs and Ceremonials, you get the sense of a musical figure that’s more like a spiritual experience. Songs like “Shake It Off” and “The Dog Days Are Over” were the makings of a champion, but with every heroine’s story, there has to be some tribulations to even out the narrative. “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is where the heroine falls to earth a little bit broken by love or life in general. It’s also a departure for the congruent theme of water that was predominately featured in the previous albums. The first part of the album is indicative of the powerful emotions that Welch is feeling. “Ship To Wreck” is progressively upbeat musically, but the narrative in the lyrics indicate anything but sunny side up. “Here comes a killer whale to sing me to sleep/Thrashing the covers off/has me by it’s teeth”. 

“What Kind Of Man” was the first taste that we got from from the album. It’s a declaration against love that not evenly distributed or curated. You would expect the beautiful orchestration of the trumpets that signal a call to arms, but there is also a slick guitar line as well that adds a new aggressive element. The title track is like a third act of a play that one is watching where nothing left but the aftermath. “Maybe I’ll see you in another life/If this one wasn’t enough”, Welch proclaims as her voice disappears into a cavalcade of classical arrangements. The first three songs of the album alone could be a small EP itself and be satisfying. 

“Various Storms & Saints”  seems like an outer body experience. With haunting vocals and blues like guitar, it seems as though that the lyrics are speaking to Florence and rather from Florence herself. “I know you’re bleeding/but you’ll be ok”. We all have that inner voice that speaks to us when our foundations get destroyed. As fierce as this album can be at times, it’s the slow, tranquil moments that will hit you hardest. “Mother”, the last track on the album is where you would think that there is a ray of hope, but it leaves Florence asking to be complete. What a way to go out within a track that more rock with a punch to it. The major inclusion of tempo and guitars will further enforce the turbulence within the time period that this album was recorded.

This album is Florence beautifully and unapologetically broken. The angel has broken wings within one of the most honest albums in recent memory. This will probably provide some much healing to our heroine to hopefully return to that champion status once again. 

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