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

Bianca Gracie | June 2, 2015 8:43 am
Florence + The Machine Perform On 'SNL'
Her third appearance on 'Saturday Night Live' was a triumph.

The first half of 2015 was a bit of a musical lull, but that is slowly beginning to change as we hit the halfway mark! The albums set to release this month (and the rest of the year) have become some of the most anticipated projects to date. Florence + The Machine’s third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (out today, ), ranks high on the list.

In our 4-star review, we stated: “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.”

But how do other music industry critics feel about Florence + The Machine’s new album? Read what they had to say down below!

:: Pitchfork gave it a 7.6, stating: “Welch’s voice trembles and groans until she hauls herself up to the parts of her songs that she can belt out with desperate, bleating vibrato. And the arrangements onHow Big are this big: lush and ornate, tinkering with their details every few seconds, cresting and crashing and cresting and cresting some more.”

:: While The Guardian settled on 3 out of 5 stars: “Is it big? You don’t go to Welch (or Dravs) for intimate miniatures of domestic still lives, and HBHBHB keeps up both music-makers’ reputations for voluminous layers. There are quieter songs here, of course – Long & Lost is the album’s sneaky grower, Caught is soulful, if a tad sluggish – but the musical drama remains highly strung. Brass fanfares on the title track suggest the distant glory of lasting love; the closing Mother is a retro rhythm’n’blues-inspired finale that aims to strip paint at 100 paces. Welch’s vocals are multi-tracked and backed by yet more vocals; she is legion.”

:: The Boston Globe had this to say: “For Florence + the Machine, getting smaller means shrinking just so — think theater-size, instead of suited to arenas. The music is less wide-eyed than the band’s two previous albums, bringing to mind the ornate songs by those moody yet playful acts who were just weird enough to be classified as “alternative” back when radio gatekeepers let multiple female-fronted bands sneak onto their playlists.”

:: Our friends over at Stereogum explained this in their premature evaluation: “How Big, by contrast, is contained and controlled. It’s relatively digestible — 11 songs in a manageable 49 minutes. And Welch gives her songs room to breath, letting her band vamp bluesily sometimes rather than raging to another climax, or taking her time to build to the massive, cathartic choruses. The songs on the album are big, but there aren’t any monsters on the level of “Shake It Out.” And Welch isn’t singing about death. She’s singing about smaller, more human feelings, about regretting fuckups or trying to take back control of her life after partying too hard for too long.”

:: Billboard gave it 4 stars in their review: “No matter the mood and tempo, though, the Florence & The Machine heard on How Big How Blue How Beautiful is a newly self-aware one. It shows a different kind of mastery by allowing for a different kind of vulnerability, an especially delicate balancing act for a young woman in pop music. “It’s hard to see it when you’re in it,” Welch sings on “Caught.” Perhaps, but by making that extra stretch for perspective, an artist can create songs that help listeners work out their own tangles and take measure of their own traps. In other words, the songs that people return to.”

:: While NME noted the LP’s sonic balance: “Happily, moments of light far outweigh those of darkness. Closer ‘Mother’ tempts Epworth back for one last job – a glossy Jefferson Airplane-style slice of blues with an unmistakable debt to ‘Screamadelica’-era Primal Scream’s gospel psych. Overflowing with stately songwriting and lyrical craftsmanship, ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ makes for a restrained but joyful return, and a collection that will last long after Welch’s broken bones are mended.”

:: Vulture stated: “Though its title seems to hint at a similar kind of grandiosity, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is actually an attempt to scale back Welch’s more dramatic impulses and explore some unfamiliar lyrical ground. Which meant those odes to the sea were the first to go.”

:: Lastly, Digital Spy shared their thoughts: “But with all the gutsy grandeur causing a passionate storm around the red-headed nightingale, it leaves the quieter moments laid wonderfully naked. Florence’s voice is given space to pirouette over the tender ‘Long & Lost’ and ‘Caught’, her sometimes frenetic delivery settled with comfortable oohs and a soft tone. It’s a welcome break amongst the melodrama that Florence does so well – and one that results in How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful being one of the most majestic crash landings in music.”

Did you enjoy Florence + The Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful? Sound off in the comments below!

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