Florence Welch’s career has been enviable to say the least. She formed Florence + The Machine in 2007 with Isabella Summers, then the band shot to fame with the release of their debut album, Lungs, in 2009, which led to a legendary Brits performance of You Got the Love rewritten with Dizzee Rascal. Their new take on the song overtook the original on the iTunes charts and further propelled Florence’s career. Ceremonials, her second album, was released in 2011 with a similar number of hits, and her third and most recent album is on track to do the same. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was released in May 2015 and showcases Florence’s powerful voice and bohemian attitude to life. The 28 year old’s Glastonbury headline slot showcases her new work with great energy and enthusiasm.
The album begins with Ship to Wreck, a poppy, catchy song about self-destruction. Florence says the inspiration for the song, which has already had a lot of radio plays, was her regret over the attention she received by the media while she was enjoying her success by partying. After the upbeat first song, What Kind Of Man seems dull in comparison, however about one minute in, the guitar begins and the tempo increases. From then on, the song is full of anger and power. The band say they enjoyed playing a guitar sound, however they found it difficult to perfect since it is not their usual style.
The album’s title song, and my personal favourite from the album, follows What Kind Of Man. Its chorus is akin to George Ezra’s Did You Hear The Rain, with fluctuating vocals. The band is so good in this song that they nearly steal attention from Florence’s vocals! Following this is Queen Of Peace, which has a Fleetwood Mac style sound, and gives one the same longing to sing along and dance. Various Storms & Saints follows this. It is an understated, beautiful song, although it does sound a little dull compared to the previous four upbeat tracks. Delilah solves this issue since it is another high energy hit of the kind that Florence + The Machine are renowned for. It sounds remarkably similar to some of their previous hits, in contrast with the following Long & Lost, which is slower and less reliant on a powerful brass section, with the focus firmly on Florence’s breathy voice. The song seems restrained, since it does not build up to a crescendo like most of the band’s tunes.
Caught uses the layering of harmonies to beautiful effect in its chorus, with a deceptively cheerful sound despite its more dark lyrics. Third Eye has a nearly sixties sound, although I find the repetition of the line ‘an original lifeline’ doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. St Jude sounds almost like it uses the same backing track as Katy Perry’s Firework at first, although it quickly becomes apparent that this song is much different – less likely to become a hit, but a very calming song to listen to. The final track on the album, Mother, alternates between power and softness, with beautifully written lyrics. The instrumental finale of the track finishes the album with all the grandeur it deserves.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is overall a strong album with many potential hits (keep a lookout for the title track, Queen Of Peace and Delilah). It is clear that Florence deserves all the success she has accrued as writer and lead performer of all her music. I hope to see even more of her in the years to come, and hopefully more from the multitalented Isabella Summers, the only other permanent member of the band (on piano, strings, celesta, synth and backing vocals) who helps write and produce the band’s tracks.
Image credit: http://www.amazon.com/How-Blue-Beautiful-Deluxe-Edition/dp/B00THEH4UY