Written By: riyadh
June 10, 2015
British indie-rock band Florence + The Machine recently released their third studio album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, as a follow up to first Lungs and second Ceremonials. The album details the struggles in a faulted relationship with powerful songs detailing regret, such as "Ship to Wreck", anger, shown in "What Kind of Man", and self-appreciation, noted in "Third Eye".
The album begins with the exquisitely crafted "Ship to Wreck". This song, despite its seemingly gleeful and positive musicality, depicts strong regret from Florence towards how she ruined her relationship. The powerful lines such as "I can't help but pull the Earth around me to make my bed" and "don't touch the sleeping pills, they mess with my head" reinforce Florence's ability to create musical masterpieces despite the circumstances. The regretful nature takes a shocking turn to "What Kind of Man", an ode to questioning why your lover is so crooked. It's followed by the more lighthearted title track, "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful", about how she's maybe questioning that fame and the attention of Hollywood (enforced by the first line, "Between a crucifix and the Hollywood sign, we decided to get hurt..."), all while making yet another grand water reference by asking, "How big? How blue? How Beautiful?" Not to mention the inspirational instrumental section towards the end, in which the listener is engulfed by trumpets, embracing the powerful statement of the song: fame can corrupt relationships. The next song is "Queen of Peace", the first song in the album that is more resemblant of her older style shown in Ceremonials and Lungs. Personally, it is my favorite track as I'm sitting here, stumped on how to compare it to an older song of her's. The powerful chorus with a regular drum beat unheard in the rest of the album is haunted by the line, "...cause you're driving me away". In this song, she yet again makes another water reference: "...like a boat into oblivion", which was notorious in Ceremonials. The album takes a slower turn as the upbeat melody of "Queen of Peace" is overcome by the haunting guitar chords of "Various Storms and Saints", a melody about trying to become free from an unstable relationship while her lover dwells in the turbulence. Up next, the positive and encouraging "Delilah", a song about fully understanding that her lover is no good for her, while craftily using the story of femme fatale Delilah and Sampson to describe her story with her partner.
"Various Storms and Saints" wasn't the only taste of depressing instrumentals and vocals, as "Long & Lost", "Caught", and "St. Jude" all further depict her chaotic relationship. Quite notably, in "St. Jude", Florence manages to harbor her vocal ability as to not a single big note, and it is that control that makes the song worth listening to. Again on an upbeat note, "Third Eye" comes towards the end, a song about appreciating self-worth. It is followed by transcendent "Mother" in which she is calling upon her mother's assistance to leave.
The deluxe edition of the album has two bonus tracks ("Hiding" and "Make Up Your Mind"). Both are strong and worth the listen; however, the high notes and repition of "Hiding" can make it one of the more obnoxious tracks on the album. Following that are three demos, a before unheard and equally powerful "Which Witch", "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful", and "Third Eye". The vinyl edition has additional song "As Far As I Could Get" and the Target bonus tracks include "Pure Feeling" and "Conductor".
Overall, the album deserves a 4.8/5 stars, repetition in the song's themes and the lingering, awkward melody of "Hiding" being stuck in your head holding it back.