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New Music: Florence + the Machine

By Melanie Woods, June 18 2015 —

Florence Welch’s producer reportedly discouraged her from writing about water during the recording of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

But the album’s first track, “Ship to Wreck,” throws that suggestion out the window. Welch dives right back into the water-inspired themes and emotions that characterize the group’s music.

While Florence + the Machine’s first album, Lungs, was light and breathy and follow-up Ceremonials was booming and symphonic, How Big is a vast, all-consuming ocean of sound and emotion. It’s both richer and deeper than the band’s past work.

Ultimately, it hits all the notes that make Florence + the Machine such a successful group. And at the centre of the band’s success is Florence Welch.

Florence + the Machine rides almost solely on Welch’s powerful lyricism and soulful belting. The backing band is full of rich orchestrations like the brass fanfares on the title track and the commanding guitar riffs on “What Kind of Man.” However, they ultimately serve as a vessel for Welch’s presence. ENT_FlorenceCover_WEB

On tracks like “Mother” and “Third Eye,” Welch evokes the success of the band’s past anthems while dealing with personal pain and heartache.

How Big’s subject matter is also a departure for the band. The album finds Welch more soulful and inward-looking than before, as she tries to make sense of intimate personal relationships and conflicts.

The change in lyrical themes is evident on the opening track, “Ship to Wreck,” which examines the spiraling nature of self-destructive behaviour, while the ballad “St. Jude” considers how we cope with loss in a relationship.

Welch may rely on a masterful backing band to give weight to her vocals, but she still does the bulk of the lifting in bringing the songs on How Big to life. Welch is a poignant and gifted lyricist who uses her generational voice to create awe-inspiring music.

The band may be called Florence + the Machine. But at the end of the day, Welch is what drives this group.

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