Florence + The Machine // “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” (2015)

Florence + The Machine is a British band with an unique and recognizable sound, formed around singer Florence Welch and Isabella Summers, who plays keyboard. Their sound is often described as a combination of different genres and influences, such as indie, soul and pop.

The core of the band, is red-haired singer Florence Welch. Apart from being a fashion icon and favorite of Karl Lagerfeld, she has the most amazing voice. A voice that can be compared to British colleague Adele and a style that is clearly influenced by Kate Bush.

florence welch

In 2009, Florence + The Machine released their first studio album, called “Lungs”, which became one of the best-selling albums of that year and 2010. Following the unbelievable success of their debut album, the band released “Ceremonials” in 2011. Although the album never became as popular as its predecessor, it granted Florence and her consorts with world-wide recognition.

Ever since the release of their first album, Florence + The Machine has been in the spotlights. The band has won numerous awards, such as the Critics Choice Award at the BRIT Awards, Mastercard British Album of the Year and a Best Honorary ‘redhead by choice’ musician award (whatever that means…). Florence + The Machine has always had a flair for the dramatic and so they have written songs for the soundtracks of Baz Luhrman’s “The Great Gatsby” and “Snow White and the Huntsman”, starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth.

how big, how blue, how beautiful

Despite the band’s success, it has been quiet for the past couple of years. Now, four years after the release of “Ceremonials”, the band brings their newest album to the table, bombastically titled “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”.

In an interview with NME, Welch says that the third studio album is “the most personal record” she and her band have ever made. In the year before “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” was written, the singer had a nervous breakdown. The release and tour of albums “Lungs” and “Ceremonials” had proven to be too much and Welch made the conscious decision to take a year off. That time did Welch and her consorts well, because the result of their third musical collaboration is beautiful and refreshing. In that same interview, Welch explains that she wanted a new and more original sound for “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”. The singer wanted to “refine” what she and her band had done before and “pare it down”.

Florence + The Machine has succeeded at that. Their new sound is less indie and harps and more rock and guitars. One thing that really strikes me of “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is that less is more. The album is less bombastic, less extravagant and less polished – which leaves the bare core of Florence’s sound. It is more raw and more real. This is especially apparent on songs such as “Delilah” and the single “What Kind of Man”. They are bombastic and strong, but not covered with embellishments, which makes for raw and honest music.

“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” also features beautiful ballad-like songs, such as the haunting single “St. Jude”. The instrumentation is minimal, which leaves plenty of room for Welch’s bewitching and bare voice. The result is a song that pierces the air. Other tracks that really strike me, are “Various Storms and Saints” and the final song of the album “Mother”. The first is a beautiful and sad ballad woven around Welch’s voice, accompanied by a subtle yet powerful choir, while “Mother” is the perfect finale to an astonishing album: poised, regal and haunting.

Four years we had to wait for “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”, but it is more than worth it.

Love,

Almost Famous Writer

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