Florence + the Machine’s latest LP may be a breakup record, but this is not your average breakup record. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful accomplishes the near-impossible feat of being dramatic and emotional without sounding whiny. The emotions Florence Welch sings of on How Big are devastating and one wonders how anyone could pull themselves from such a slump. On “Queen of Peace” Welch sings “Suddenly I’m overcome/Dissolving like the setting sun/Like a boat into oblivion/Cause you’re driving me away” and we can’t help but think back to any person who has ever mercilessly crushed our hearts.
Even though How Big comes four years after the band’s last release, Ceremonials, Florence + the Machine have not lost their touch. Their latest album still has that spunk that they’ve always had but this time around they sound a lot more mature and grounded. Florence + the Machine certainly have not changed, they have just grown up a bit. The band has had ample time to mature and they grasped that opportunity and turned it into something amazing.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful deals with many sensitive emotions, but it still makes you want to jump around and destroy everything, “Kiss With A Fist” style. “What Kind of Man” starts off slow and sad, a song about a man Welch could never fully have. Then, around the one minute mark, the drums and guitar kick in and the feisty Florence + the Machine that we all know and love graces us with their presence. Ultimately this song isn’t just about the man that Florence lost, but about fighting back even if you are sure to lose. The band has mastered the ability to talk, or, rather, sing of sadness in a positive way.
Florence Welch is no stranger to theatrics and How Big proves she can still use them fully to her advantage. Florence + the Machine is known for the evocative imagery and metaphors in their music, mostly water-themed. But when Welch was told by producer Markus Dravs that she was “not allowed to write any more songs about water,” she took the opportunity to explore other metaphors including biblical imagery in “Delilah.” In true Florence fashion, she broke the rules a little bit and still clings to where she feels most comfortable, water, often still alluding to ships and storms.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful perfectly encompasses what it’s like to have your heart broken. It is delivered beautifully, as it only could be by Welch’s mesmerizing vocals. She never fails to show off her impressive vocal range and this album would not be as great as it is if it were sung by a different artist. How Big commands a lot of power from such a vulnerable place. Florence + the Machine is a band known for giving it their all and How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is the best reason for why they shouldn’t stop.