Florence & The Machine's How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful: What You Need To Know
Returning this week (June 1st) with her third album, flame-haired pop goddess Florence Welch spent the four years in between having her heart broken, then slowly putting it back together. But, does that make this her most tender album yet? What can we expect from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful? Here's everything you need to know...
What's the background?
The last few years seem to have been fairly turbulent for Florence Welch. Possibly as a result of the aforementioned break-up, things reached a bit of a nadir when a fan managed to capture footage of her drunkenly singing and screaming on stage at a New York bar, and before long the video ended up on MTV News.
In response, Florence stopped drinking and began cycling to and from the studio, telling Rolling Stone: “I had quite a monkish existence, I cycled to the studio, cycled home, read, ate, went to bed. It was like convalescing. But it really was magic."
Markus Dravs, the man behind albums by Coldplay, Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons, is manning the controls for the majority of the new LP, also co-writing two of the album's tracks, 'Queen of Peace' and 'Various Storms and Saints'. The closing track 'Mother' however is produced by Paul Epworth, producer of choice for Adele and a man with a list of production credits to his name that includes Paul McCartney, Bloc Party and U2.
What does it sound like?
Quite a bit has been made of Florence's recent break-up and its impact on the new record, but this isn't quite the melancholy album that you might expect and given the choice of producers on the new album that's hardly surprising; neither Dravs nor Epworth are strangers to big, stadium-filling anthems and while the lyrical content is clearly addressing the split, musically speaking it's just as rousing as her earlier records for the most part.
That's not to say there hasn't been a bit of a shift in approach here though – the title track in particular represents something a bit more ambitious than the material found on Florence's first two albums, with its gradually swelling orchestral arrangement and sparse lyrics. There are some more mellow moments too, with both 'Love and Lost' and 'St. Jude' being cases in point, showcasing a softer side to Florence's usual bellowing vocals.
Elsewhere though, on tracks like the guitar riff driven 'What Kind of Man' and the brisk strum-along of 'Ship to Wreck', Florence returns to her default setting, letting her powerful voice rip over tracks that are sure to turn into live favourites.
Any special guests?
Just a couple, in the form of Kid Harpoon, who appears on 'Ship To Wreck' and 'What Kind of Man', as well as rapper / singer Ester Dean, who pops up on 'Long & Lost'.
Does it deliver?
If you were a fan of the first two albums then you needn't be worried by all the chatter about a totally different sound on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Yes, it's an evolution of the band's sound, for sure, but not a radical departure by any means and for a record that's supposedly all about heartbreak, it's actually surprisingly upbeat in places. 'What Kind of Man' is a particular standout track and altogether it seems that Florence's lifestyle changes have paid off – this is a more mature more accomplished incarnation of Florence & The Machine and it's all the better for it.