How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Four years have passed since Florence and The Machine released the phenomenally good Ceremonials album. Today I was delighted when I came home from work to find that their latest record was waiting for me on the doormat, having been excited for it since the announcement several months ago. With an artist as innovative and talented as Florence Welch it was always going to be a thrill to hear the direction taken after the band’s strong debut and sophomore efforts, and I am indeed thrilled.

This is perhaps the band’s most ambitious record yet (no small feat given the sound of their previous ones) with the lyrics and themes taking a more personal relevance, while the compositions take on a variety of feels to take listeners on a fantastic journey. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful gains strength in delicate balance as well as bold juxtaposition. This makes for an overall album sound that evokes the feel of Lungs and Ceremonials while also further developing the artistic identity of the band. The raw rock instrumentation that made songs like Kiss With A Fist or Girl With One Eye makes an incredible comeback with some of the tracks here. Lead single What Kind Of A Man is formed around a hard hitting guitar riff that comes as a most welcome shock after the atmospheric intro to the song. This is for me, the strongest song on the record; a perfect, almost violent team up of electric guitar and Welch’s mind blowing vocal prowess.

The opening track Ship to Wreck is reminiscent of some of the band’s best known efforts such as Shake It Off and Dog Days Are Over and will certainly be a great inclusion on their summer festival setlist. The album is well paced, slowing down after the powerful opening tracks for the cinematic titular track and Long & Lost; with the latter featuring a guitar riff that fans of  artists such as The Red Hot Chilli Peppers will find most pleasing. Things end on a high note, with the closing track Mother sounding like a brilliant clash of psychedelia, soul and the avant garde; with yet more spectacular guitar and bass work. With Welch’s mesmerising vocals echoing over the top; it is beautiful and dramatic.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’s album cover features the most realistic depiction of Welch found on any of their albums so far. This is echoed in the lyrics across much of the track list, as Welch really spills out her inner emotions and turmoil to listeners. We hear about her dismay toward a lover in What Kind Of Man and subsequent realisation of the cloud pulled over her senses in Caught. Love is a common theme in music, and its downfall even more so, but here Florence and The Machine demonstrate why it can be such a captivating centre to a song.

With such a brilliant set of new songs I will be keeping an eager eye out for autumn tour announcements after the festival season wraps up. With the release of this record Florence and The Machine have cemented their reputation as one of the most spectacular sounding artists out there.

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