#44. Florence + the Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Florence Welch and company are back at it again with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. It's vulnerable yet confident, full of powerful anthems and lush arrangements. Welch has whittled her songwriting chops to a sharp point, putting forward what will be known as her strongest—albeit her most homogenous—collection of songs to date.
The dog days are unfortunately back for Welch on many of the songs. On “What Kind of Man,” we get a side of her rarely seen as she sings angrily about a man toying with her emotions without ever fully leaving or committing to their relationship. It’s probably the most straightforward rock record on the album, built around a central electric guitar riff. In general, however, the album favors more baroque pop instrumentation, with rich string arrangements and sturdy horn lines supporting the band.
Ironically, much of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful looks not outward but inward, exploring the tumultuous seas coursing within Welch. On “Ship to Wreck,” she crafts an extended metaphor about building a relationship only to ultimately dismantle it. On top of the consistent arrangements, her resonant voice provides additional connective tissue throughout the album. Her soaring vocals are perfect for the album’s anthemic, deeply emotive style. They make tracks like “Delilah” and “Mother” crackle with energy as Welch tackles themes of crumbling relationships and misguided, lost lovers.
There is so much uniformity between the songs of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful that its tracks begin to blend into one another by its end. But considering its greatest downfall is being too consistent, the album is overall a success. Welch continues to hit her stride as a songwriter, and here she has crafted tales of failed relationships that are danceable, invigorating, and most importantly, moving.