At the start of this week and the start of this month, the new Florence + the Machine album finally dropped. I waited a few days to review it just to get out of that initial period of “New music! Everything is wonderful!” However, I can’t hold out much longer so today’s album review is going to have to be all about How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
“Ship to Wreck” has been previously reviewed, and I honestly can’t add much more to my thoughts on it, so even though it’s the entry into the album we’re going to go right in to the second song. “What Kind of Man” starts off with a wide open sound and vocals that have an electronic vibe to them. The hum of energy that the song creates draws the listener into it. The song builds slowly and explodes into a beautiful harmony of sounds while simultaneously being on the louder spectrum. The song in general has a really big sound, and really holds up well when compared to what the group has already put out into the world. “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” was previously heard as a snippet in the announcement video for the album. This track begins quieter than the previous track ended on, but the vocals are enticing and draw the listener into the melody of the song. This titular track is slower at first, but picks up speed and energy as it plays. By the end though, it’s slowed back down to the pace that it started at. “Queen of Peace” opens with a really light and fairy tale like blend of sounds that build up quickly to a fast paced song that travels easily, losing some of the more airy qualities and retaining others. The vocals are big and exuberant, really displaying the full talents of Florence’s voice. It’s a fantastically energetic track that draws the listener along and holds the attention really well. “Various Storms & Saints” starts off slower, with a darker feel both vocally and musically, drawing the listener in with the evocative effect that Florence + the Machine so commonly have. The song seems to change its tones from the sadder spectrum of things gradually, taking on a brighter and more optimistic feel of the song. It’s a beautiful transition, and the song really stands out to me because of it.
“Delilah” begins with a focus on the vocals, and builds off them slowly as it hums with a quiet energy. The song progresses steadily and quickly, building in both sound and energy. It explores the higher notes the Florence can reach in points, and blends a variety of speeds together with ease. “Long & Lost” starts off slowly and dripping with emotion. it’s a considerably slower song than the other songs so far on the album, but it moves at a decent pace and you never feel bored while listening to it. It sits wonderfully among the other songs. “Caught” opens with a subtly bigger sound vocally, and is at first very slow pace wise. As the vocals get noticeably bigger and more soulful the pace picks up slightly, taking the listener on a wonderful ride of sound and emotion. Combined with “Long & Lost”, the songs create and excellent rest in the middle of extremely faster and more heavy handed songs. “Third Eye” begins with catchy vocals that stand out from the rest of the song. The vocals hold the foreground, but the percussion instruments take the second place in the realm of focus. The song moves easily, and holds the attention with ease. It has an older feel to it strangely, but it quickly made a place in my heart as one of my favorites off the album in general.
“St. Jude” starts with a more electronic hum and a distant banging that leads easily to the vocals standing stark against the rest of the song. Everything flows so easily in this slower song, and it’s almost hauntingly beautifully with how evocative it is. It vibrates with a quiet energy throughout its length, and even though it never builds or explodes into the normal big harmonies the song is positively beautifully. “Mother” opens with a more twangy and natural mix of sounds, and has a sparse and open feel, almost as if it’s simply the vocals echoing through the natural sounds of a forest at first, but the song quickly grows into a bigger chorus, filled with vocals and instruments blending together beautifully. The verses get a subtle build between the renditions of the chorus, making the transition between a little less shocking each time, but still clearly noticeable. The song ends up blending together beautifully and is simply wonderful to experience. “Hiding” begins with a bubbly and quick melody the pulls the listener in with ease, and bounces them along to the mix of instruments and vocals. It’s a strangely upbeat song though the lyrics create a bit of dichotomy between the sound and the content. it works beautiful though, and the song grabs the listener by the ears and spins them around to the melody it creates. It’s a wonderful song, with a lot of different emotions that bring the song to a culmination that is simply beautiful and balances all facets of the track with ease. “Make Up Your Mind” starts off big and open, and easily stands out from the strange mix that made up “Hiding”. “Make Up Your Mind” flows easily with the subtle themes of “Hiding” though, and they make a beautiful pair when played next to each other. This track builds itself on its own as well, so even if they do make a great pair, both of them stand out from the other. “Make Up your Mind” has a stronger sound to it all in all, but is still energetic and filled with similar emotions to “Hiding”. “Which Witch” begins with big vocals, and is driven heavily by the backing beat. It’s easy to get drawn into it, and it seems to worm its way into your heart, and mimic the beat. It’s a wonderful effect, and the powerful vocals really really take some of the pressure off of the beat, making this bonus tack one of the best off the deluxe album in my opinion. The final two tracks on the deluxe album (“Third Eye” and “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”) are both demo versions of songs that have already been covered in this post, so it’d feel repetitive to cover them again.
All in all? This album was completely worth the wait, which began after the release of Ceremonials if we’re being completely honest. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is wonderful, and completely worth the time it takes to listen to it. Though some of the track listings for the album can look daunting, they more than make up for their length by feeling far too short. Florence + the Machine continue to impress me, and will definitely be holding my attention for a while yet.