Florence Welch and her alias Florence and The Machine, are back, and back in a big, blue and beautiful way. The singer has been missing from music since the release of her 2011 album Ceremonials, and for 4 years has been busy recording and writing this new album and just generally looking like a 70’s Woodstock dream.
Welch’s large, all-encompassing voice that seems to dominate the room has continued on from Lungs and Ceremonials and onto How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, however is now met with ever changing tempos and even more poetically infatuating lyrics.Florence’s first appearance for this new album was at the Californian festival Coachella, where she revealed new songs whilst floating and leaping round stage, breaking her foot as a result and being forced to give more subdued performances as of late, perching herself on a stool. Both these differing performance styles seem to also reflect the varying songs on the album, some, for example the opening track Ship To Wreck adopts a fast and jangly pace with her voice in full effect, lifting above and beyond the track.
The lyrics throughout the album offer a more introspective and personal feel, with Welch delving into matters in a self-analysing fashion; Ship To Wreck documents the come down and over thinking that comes with the termination of a relationship – ‘Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build this ship to wreck?’ What Kind of Man explores the effects of emotional abuse within a relationship, a man toying with emotions ‘you do such damage’, and how their paths keep crossing, a kiss inspiring ‘a fire of devotion’ The lead up and eventual largeness of the chorus reflects the building stress featured in Welch’s voice provoked by the emotion this ominous kiss brings on her. Welch claims that the album, as implied by the title, is inspired by ‘general bigness and blueness’; the track itself How Big How Blue How Beautiful was written with influence of the muse of a ‘particular patch of American sky’. Welch is not only an artist, but a poet, not many modern day singers could write and produce a song so beautiful simply based on simply staring at some sky.
Bursts of positivity and motivation shines through, especially in the uplifting, both in tune and lyrics, Third Eye Florence proclaims ‘You don’t have to be a ghost” and that “You deserve to be loved”, adding the introspective line “I’m the same, I’m trying to change”. This is one of the many songs on the album that speaks directly to the audience, and interacts with listeners on a personal level, and in turn making you feel very emotionally invested and involved in the music. Mother seems to mix so many genres it’s hard to keep up; a tinge of Blues, electric guitar, psychedelic with choir effects. Delilah opens in typical Florence style, soft pianos with echoes, before picking up with clapping sounds and overlapping vocals, ‘It’s a different kind of danger, and my feet are spinning round / Never knew I was a dancer until Delilah showed me how’ is Welch’s mantra throughout.
The whole album is a journey, each song adopting a new story and emotional fortitude and this paired with Welch’s extensive and all-encompassing vocals gives the album a unique and special feel. Bigger than Ceremonials and Lungs put together, and with a poetic intensity that can only come from someone with such depth and musical intelligence such as Florence Welch possesses, How Big How Blue How beautiful is the band’s best album yet, and arguably one of the best of the year so far.
Words by Daisy Lester