Florence and the Machine
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Album Review
Released May 29, 2015
Genre: Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Art Rock
In April 2012, Florence and the Machine released their second live album as a part of the MTV Unplugged series. It was a good album: emotionally sound, more than technically competent, full of heart, etc. Still, it was understandable when, following the album’s release, Florence and the Machine lead singer Florence Welch announced that she’d be taking a break. Had the band released a record a year or so after MTV Unplugged, they’d have run the risk of sounding exhausted or bored.
Thankfully, this hiatus was used wisely. Florence and the Machine’s newest album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, is worth the wait we endured. Welch and company are back with a set of songs that work not only as fun, easy to listen to indie pop, but as powerful and often profound cinematic music
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful wastes no time at the top; it sprints out of the gate. “Ship to Wreck,” the album’s second single, is a great track to start us off on the journey, as it excellently highlights the band’s growth. The pop-like beats create a fascinating dichotomy with the dark lyrics (“Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build this ship to wreck?”). We’re next carried into “What Kind of Man,” the first single and the record’s most popular track. “What Kind of Man” is quite plainly just a really solid rock song. While I can’t say I expected Florence and the Machine to produce as anything as unashamedly ‘rock’ as this, I’m glad they did. Following this is title track “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” which ends up being one of the less impressive pieces on the album. It’s fine, but it overstays its welcome at five and a half minutes.
The next three tracks are also longer than is the norm, but each song earns its length outright. “Queen of Peace” is an especially strong piece (Peace and piece. See what I did there?). As the most bluntly angry song on the entire record, “Queen of Peace” especially appeals to me, a man who hates sunshine. Truly though, this song is made up of five beautiful wrath-filled minutes. “Various Storms and Saints” is eerie and haunting, but its most impressive attribute is the complete story it tells, filled with impressive imagery and atmosphere. “Delilah” almost perfectly marries Florence and the Machine’s vocally ‘Florence’ focused tracks with the others that emphasize the behind the scenes talent to form a well-rounded, if not inherently memorable, song.
As we delve deeper, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, gets more strange. “Long and Lost” is solemn, almost depressing, and its placement is odd to say the least. That being said, I’m not sure where this track would fit. It’s worthy of being on an album, but I’m not sure that album is this one. Following “Long and Lost”, we’re onto “Caught.” I have no idea what the hell “Caught” is, but I love it. This brass heavy song is almost…folky. It’ll require several more listens to ‘get.’ If “Caught” is sad but passive, “Third Eye” is a massive F**k You to someone. This high energy but meticulously paced track is empowering and really special.
Closing out the record are two fine tracks, though it’s clear Florence and the Machine didn’t exactly save the best for last. “St. Jude” is a nice ballad, but there’s nothing particularly special about it, and it serves as proof that mildly upset Florence Welch isn’t as entertaining as genuinely pissed Florence Welch. Closing us out is “Mother.” “Mother” mostly strips the band in favor of Welch’s voice, a guitar, and a maraca beat. It’s fine, but way too long at almost six minutes, and it’s no way to end the great album that How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is.
Instead of writing a longer closing paragraph here, I’ll just say one thing. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is a powerful, kickass album and you will like it.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Queen of Peace, Caught, Third Eye
LEAST FAV TRACKS: St Jude, Mother