Florence + the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Reviewed by James Lavender

When Florence Welch and her band burst onto the scene in 2008 her willowy stage presence and impressive vocal range hadn’t been seen in music since Kate Bush had decided to take a long sabbatical from music in the early 90s. It is Welch’s stage presence; coupled with bold, multi-layered and multi-instrumental tunes, which have led to a globally successful formula.

The band continues this on their third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. One of the most impressive aspects of this album is the sheer amount of instruments and influences which are contained on the album. From the country and western-style guitar on the opening track, ‘Ship to Wreck’, to the electronic synth beat on the final song ‘Mother’, the album has quite an eclectic collection of different musical arrangements. Some notable standouts include ‘Deliah’ (No, it’s not a Tom Jones cover!), which starts off in a steady tempo, but then gets faster and is taken up a notch in with heavier drums and guitar. The sounds of trumpets triumphantly raise the chorus of ‘What Kind of Man’, whilst multi-layered orchestral arrangements dominate tracks such as ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’, ‘Queen of Peace’ and ‘St Jude’.

Listening closely to some of the songs on this album, I couldn’t help but be reminded of other artists, who may or may not have influenced the band. The obvious influences include Annie Lennox on ‘Ship to Wreck’, but when listening to ‘Queen of Peace’, with its string arrangements backing a pop rhythm, it reminded me of Texas’ ‘Black Eyed Boy’. As a whole, the album’s orchestral rock sound harkened back to Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain album.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful also sounds like it could translate seamlessly to the stage. It shows off Florence Welch’s vocal range and the pace of the album would suit a live show with the first four songs being a great introduction, the middle songs slowing everything down, and then the final tracks finishing the proceedings off, particularly ‘Mother’ which seems like a natural tune to end a live show. Florence + The Machine continue to follow a winning formula with this album. In my opinion, it is big, beautiful and bold as brass.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Track: What Kind of Man

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