Release Date: Jun 2, 2015
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Florence and the Machine’s second album Ceremonials contained a song, “No Light, No Light”, that was a rebuttal of the irresistible force paradox - what happens when an unstoppable force hits an unmovable object? The answer is that something has to give, yet its outcome was actually a stalemate. On How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful however, something does give. Florence has been hit by the brutal force of a broken heart, and the songs here are a stunning document of the consequences.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Six and a half years ago, when Florence Welch was just 22 years old, the soaring, pounding, soulful and, most of all, grandiose anthem 'Dog Days Are Over' was released by Florence and the Machine. Pulled from the band's 2009 debut record, Lungs, the single helped establish the group as one of the most promising purveyors of baroque pop in the world.
“Maybe I’ve always been more comfortable in chaos,” sings Florence Welch on her third LP. That lyric could be the British singer’s mission statement, summarizing the grand ambitions of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Collaborating with producer Markus Dravs, Welch finds clever ways to enrich her bewitching blend of alt-pop, soul and art-rock—wringing out her usual quota of widescreen melodrama, but without the overwrought theatricality that dragged down much of her previous work.
Think of Florence Welch, and you’ll think of that voice. As trademarks go, being able to belt it out isn’t a bad one, but with ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ that’s not the only thing going large. While our Flo has never been a retiring character with her music, on her third album - even for a bona fide superstar - she’s turning everything up a notch, not just the volume.
Florance and the Machine gets down to brass tacks on its new album. Singer Florence Welch and her band has added a blast of horns to the already grand mix of strings, woodwinds and the usual rock instruments. It’s a brilliant match for a singer like Welch, whose voice always had the force and flourish of a trumpet. She’s as much a signal as a singer, with a sound that suggests a herald of things to come, or the cry that leads men into battle.
The mass critical and commercial hysteria that greeted Florence And The Machine‘s arrival feels like a long time ago, a time when Florence Welch heralded the end of dog days. With Lungs and Ceremonials, she had crafted her own sound that has sparked many imitators since; whilst her earlier material had a bit more vim and even aggression (see Kiss With A Fist), her music has gradually evolved to become more graceful and grandiose, with sweeping orchestral flourishes in all directions. Both of these records contain plenty of impressive moments, not to mention mega hits galore, but they were also flawed, and the sheer enormity of it all could sometimes get a bit much.
It’s fair to say the run-up to the release of Florence + The Machine’s third album hasn’t gone to plan. After three low-key dates in London and San Francisco during March and April, Florence Welch’s first big gig back was at the daddy of high-profile festivals, California’s Coachella. During the performance – which included three tracks from ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ – Florence leapt like a flame-haired dervish from the stage to dash towards her adoring crowd, breaking her foot in the process.
No one does pop grandeur quite like Florence and the Machine. It’s an increasingly soulful grandeur, too. Florence Welch, who, along with her band, was already releasing soaring anthems like “Dog Days Are Over” at just 22 years old, goes for exhilarating sonic force six years later on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the lovesick third Florence and the Machine album.
Florence Welch has built her career on the premise that she feels things more painfully and powerfully than anybody else. Accordingly, her band's third studio album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is one long Ophelia mad scene, a breakup record from the point of view of someone who is absolutely convinced that her breakup is the most devastating thing that has ever happened to anyone. She makes a pretty good case for that, to be fair.
The first two albums by Florence and the Machine were hardly feeble constructs, with Florence Welch's vocals front and center and demanding the attention of anyone within earshot. But with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Welch and company have produced a series of songs that truly match the singer's formidable vocals while providing the players plenty of room to shine. .
The moon, the stars, the sky, the earth, the ocean. These are the things that Florence Welch calls into battle with her—and it’s always a battle. From Lungs onward, Welch is always fighting with demons, lovers, and lust. It’s her voice that drives Welch into earthshaking territory, of course ….
There’s something very unusual about “Ship to Wreck,” the towering first track on Florence + The Machine’s third LP, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful: It starts already in its highest gear, the band in full swing and the piano hook zooming out of the speakers. The great majority of Florence’s most famous songs develop very slowly, with extended intros — think the harp-plucking that kicks off “Dog Days Are Over,” or the groaning organ that leads in “Shake It Off” — building to full drama. You might have to go back to Florence’s rough-love first single, “Kiss With a Fist” — whose pop-punk energy today sounds so distant from the rest of the Machine’s discography that you’ve likely come to associate it with Kate Nash or Ida Maria instead — for another song of hers that bursts out of the gate like that.
Review Summary: Now with more brass.Two and a half albums. That’s about as far as Florence Welch and that big, beautiful (blue? No, red; always red) voice paralyzed me until diminishing returns set in. Granted, this is about an album and a half longer than expected. Ms. Welch’s last effort ….
Florence and her Machine seem to get pretty short shrift in the alternative music world these days, even if her debut record was received fairly warmly back in 2009 - something that was all the more impressive on account of any veneer of credibility she did have being shot to pieces before it was even released. It wasn’t especially difficult to see through the major-label line we were being fed about the Londoner in the months leading up to Lungs: having a bit of standard-issue, Zooey Deschanel ‘quirkiness’ about you and combining it with a penchant for chaotic, boozy live shows that usually ended up with somebody climbing the stage rigging doesn’t make you Camberwell’s answer to Kate Bush. By the time Lungs was out, she’d secured the necessary Radio 1 ubiquity with the likes of ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and - especially - that inescapable Candi Station cover to ensure prominence at the summer’s festivals and a rapid ascent through the venue capacity ranks.
Florence and the Machine's 2012 MTV Unplugged set was startling. Here was Florence Welch's magnificently wayward choir-girl voice laid bare, shorn of cathedral reverb and synth swaddle, singing hits and covers (including Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness") backed by wooden instruments and candles. The band's first LP since that session seems informed by it: Finally, Welch is leaning hard into the classic rock and soul sounds her vocals always flirted with, like Ophelia in a Mondrian miniskirt.
The much-anticipated third studio long-player from Florence Welch and her mechanically inclined companions, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful arrives after a period of recalibration for the spirited English songtress. Arriving three-and-a-half years after 2011's well-received Ceremonials, the 11-track set, the first Florence + the Machine album to be produced by Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay), eschews some of the bombast and water- and death-fixated metaphors of Lungs and Ceremonials in favor of a more restrained sonic scope and an honest reckoning with the dark follies of your late twenties. This change is most notable on the workmanlike opener "Ship to Wreck," a shimmering, open road-ready folk-rock rumination on the ambiguity/inevitability of post-fame self-destruction that, unlike prior first cuts like "Dog Days Are Over" and "Only If for a Night," feels firmly rooted in the now.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the title of the third album by Florence and the Machine, looks up and marvels at the sky above Los Angeles. Within the opening retro guitar shimmer of Ship to Wreck, you can tell America and its sounds have increased their hold on Florence Welch, a singer previously best understood as a very British eccentric, one gifted with a megaphone for a larynx and a dressing-up box turned up to 11. Over two hit albums – 2009’s Lungs and 2011’s Ceremonials – Welch’s obsession with Opheliatic drowning has been worked through.
The advance publicity for Florence Welch’s third album has made a great deal of its apparent differences from its predecessors. According to the singer herself, How Big How Blue How Beautiful is an album about heartbreak, concerned with “stripping down layers of things to hide behind: big sounds, big dresses, big metaphor”. Despite the presence of producer Markus Dravs – latterly the go-to guy for artists of a certain world-conquering, stadium-filling bent, including Coldplay, Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons – listeners are primed to expect the epitome of understatement and restraint, the work of a “quiet person”.
Sing, O Goddess, the fury of Florence! Sing her Machine’s devastation, which puts pain and joy thousandfold upon us all. Begin, Muse, when she first broke and then clashed with her enemies. Florence, flame-haired daughter of the weird sisters — Stevie, Kate, and Tori — has countless opponents. Former lovers.
Florence Welch rocketed to prominence and festival-headliner status because of her penchant for the grandiose. Her band’s biggest hits, like the swelling “Dog Days Are Over” and the determined “Shake It Off” were full of sweeping gestures and replete with poetic imagery. But on Florence + the Machine’s third album, “How Big How Blue How Beautiful,” the British singer is scaling back a bit, with more intimate acoustics and lyrics focused on retrenching in the wake of a failed relationship.
We've seen the optimistic Florence Welch. The UK drama queen's need-no-man approach is documented on singles "Kiss With a Fist" and "Dog Days Are Over," focusing positivity on the aftermath of heartbreak. Third LP How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful dispenses with that ethos, embracing the raging/wallowing period that's delivered through biblical and Greek mythological references, and Welch's charged pipes.
Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine performs at the 2015 Coachella Music and Arts Festival on April 19, in Indio, Calif. Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine performs at the 2015 Coachella Music and Arts Festival on April 19, in Indio, Calif. Since her 2009 debut album, "Lungs," Florence Welch was known as much for her cape-tossing, kimono-sleeve-fluttering stage persona as she was her music.