Florence + the Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

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Posted July 17, 2015 by in Alternative
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

4/ 5

Details

Genre: , ,
 
Producer: ,
 
Label:
 
 
 
 
Genre: Indie rock, alternative, rock
 
Producer: Markus Dravs, Paul Epworth
 
Label: Island
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc
 
Time: 48:46
 
Release Date: 29 May 2015
 
Spin This: "Ship to Wreck," "Wha Kind of Man," "Delilah"
 

Pros:

Balanced album, less dreary and dark than Ceremonials. Features fireworks on rock band jam "Ship to Wreck"
 

Cons:

Absent of something with the major crossover pop factor as "Dog Days Are Over" or "Shake It Off"
 

New producer, polished band gives Florence Welch best balanced album to date

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

New producer, polished band gives Florence Welch best balanced album to date

When UK singer Florence Welch arrived on the scenes during the Amy Winehouse/Adele soul invasion, she came with her own amalgam of music. Blending big baroque pop, Annie Lennox grace and an avant-garde approach to rock, Welch and her supporting band The Machine defied natural conventions and made a big splash in mainstream. Her mightiest handiworks from that debut are those steeped in the soul tradition: 2009’s Lungs showed off “Dog Days Are Over” and her sweeping cover of Candi Staton’s “You’ve Got the Love.” Ceremonials, the band’s follow-up, proved to be an exercise in explorative pop as it carried a much darker, gothic presentation. The album did bear a heavy accessible hit with “Shake It Out” and bore a powerful soulful scorcher “Spectrum,” which conjured a Annie Lennox-tinged tribal-meets-industrial ballad. But since then, Welch has shown no fear in experimenting with styles and sounds outside her realm. The highest compliment of crossover success came when mega-DJ Calvin Harris planted her on the electro-charged “Sweet Nothing.”

On Welch’s third workout with The Machine, she plays up her strengths by exaggerating the spirituality of her baroque pop and light-psychedelic rock. Helping to make that magic so combustible on this round is Markus Dravs, renowned for producing Arcade Fire’s brilliant The Suburbs. His attention to detail allows Welch and her band to sound livelier and artsy in a world of rock that glistens after several repeats. You can hear this stroke of genius on “Ship to Wreck,” the trusty album opener. puts her on a fiery uptempo workout that feels like a true rock ‘n roll standard. Inside what sounds like the album’s Mount Everest, she wails like a street evangelist on the catchy chorus. Her surrounding cast of musicians are also pounding out a performance heard on transcendent rock: Chris Hayden gives stadium-ready drumming; Mark Sanders supplies a sanctified tambourine and Robert Ackroyd supplying the R.E.M.-coated melody with trusty guitar chords. And then she renders her bit of uncertainty as she questions her part in a unraveling love affair: “Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build this ship to wreck?”

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful stuffs its best material towards the front with “What Kind of Man” playing like a “You Got the Love” clone,” the title track sounding like a Lava lamp hymn and a rock ‘n rolling “Delilah” showing off more of Welch’s fierce background vocal prowess. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the disc is absent of good moments. Welch pours a bundle of teen spirit on “that original lifeline,” the hookiest part of “Third Eye.” And the calm lo-fi atmosphere of “Long & Lost” is blessed with a kind of grace that is usually lost on full-length LPs of this magnitude. She makes room for these type of ballads, balancing out the raucous rock with the content that made Ceremonials so avant-grade.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful doesn’t make a big critical splash like the introductory Lungs, nor does it capture the euphoric darkness of its follow-up, but it feels like the better album of the three. The ardent production allows the band to sound like a self-contained unit and not simply a studio experiment. Welch also pushes her songwriting further up the ladder of dreamy rock. With the lack of something as explosive as “Dog Days Are Over” and “Shake It Out,” it’s still enough to satisfy fans, and add new ones.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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