Florence + The Machine’s ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’: Album Review

Christina Lee | June 2, 2015 6:50 am

Florence Welch has a big and soulful voice, the type sought out by reality competition shows. Her breakout performance at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards was a pre-Raphaelite living picture pre-dating ARTPOP. But for her outfit Florence + The Machine‘s third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (out today, ), Welch scales back. As a result, she is more magnetic than ever.

That isn’t to say that the British singer has transformed into a troubadour. How Big has its dreamy moments; the bluesy title track blooms into this orchestral interlude of horns and woodwinds, as if Welch has ascended from Big Sur to the pearly gates. But, while her past music was baroque pop filled with sweeping gestures and artful imagery (Frida Kahlo‘s What Water Gave Me is a past inspiration), this one is pop-rock indebted to Fleetwood Mac, presented with added vigor, rawer emotion and newfound directness.

Welch sang before of drinking until her head starts spinning, though the verve and immediacy of “Ship to Wreck” and “Delilah” makes that seem more dangerous than before. Five years ago, Welch imagined herself as a werewolf and her love, the moon, to illustrate how cruel he could be. Now she is just as commanding, if not more so, when all she has to sing is what kind of man loves like this to get her point across.

Part of Welch’s charm has long been how she can create something magical under totally ordinary circumstances, like how she recorded 2011’s “Shake It Out” while hungover. Now she often brings herself back down to earth, where she gets angry at her man for growing distant and grossed out by other couples at parties. That is another reason why How Big is instantly memorable; Welch is more relatable now than she’s been before.

Maybe I’ve always been more comfortable in chaos,” she sings on “St. Jude,” keeping her typically loud voice low. There is a difference between just sounding soulful and baring your soul, and fortunately Welch is figuring that out for herself.

Idolator Score: 4/5

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