How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

With Two Successful Albums Already Under Their Belt, Florence and the Machine Created A Few Hard Acts To Follow. But If the Band's Third Studio Album Proves Anything, It's That They Have No Shortage Of Big Drama and Big Ideas

With Two Successful Albums Already Under Their Belt, Florence and the Machine Created A Few Hard Acts To Follow. But If the Band's Third Studio Album Proves Anything, It's That They Have No Shortage Of Big Drama and Big Ideas

Text: William Defebaugh

While Florence and the Machine’s last album, Ceremonials, can be read as a journey into the after-life, their new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful takes a more personal voyage: an inward one.

As evidenced in the three music videos released over the past few months, front woman Florence Welch spent the better part of her last few years off in a spiral of chaotic partying, self-destruction, and heartbreak—all of which are central themes for this new body of work.

"It was sort of a crash landing," Welch told Rolling Stone of her return. "I guess although I've always dealt in fantasy and metaphor when I came to writing, that meant the songs this time were dealing much more in reality. Ceremonials was so fixated on death and water, and the idea of escape or transcendence through death, but the new album became about trying to learn how to live, and how to love in the world rather than trying to escape from it, which is frightening because I'm not hiding behind anything but it felt like something I had to do."

And that she did. With more live instruments, a heavier focus on Welch’s own vocals (often layered to create the illusion of a chorus worthy of the gods), and heart-wrenching lyrics that read more like poetry, the album has a rawness to it that audiences have not previously heard from the group.

The album begins with a question that sets the tone of the whole piece. “Oh my love, remind me, what was it that I said?/ I can’t help but pull the earth around me to make my bed/ Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build a ship to wreck?” Welch asks on the first track, one of the album’s more upbeat numbers.

While Ceremonials explored the subtheme of water, HBHBHB sees Welch discovering her fire—a fire that burns bright in the album’s lead single, “What Kind of Man,” which finds Welch lost in a series of further questions set against electric guitars and heavy drums that have the listener feeling her acute pain.

Being lost is another key theme of the album, as seen on another one of its early singles, “St. Jude,” which finds Welch praying to the saint of lost causes of the same name. She posits on this song that perhaps the reason for her pain is that she has “Always been more comfortable in chaos.” This track, along with “Long & Lost,” are of the most notable of the album, perfectly embodying the rawness that makes the body of work so different from the band’s previous material.

All in all, the album is a triumph for the band. How Beautiful, indeed.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is out now on Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited. Get your copy here

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