Florence + the Machine (read Florence and the Machine) is an English indie rock band who formed in London in 2007. Thanks to the peculiar style and vocal strength from lead-singer Florence Welch, the band’s music is now renowned for its dramatic and eccentric production.
Following the release of acclaimed hits, such as “Dog Days Are Over,” the verve of the British band emanated into the mainstream, leaving the group’s increasing number of followers hankering for three years for new music.
Florence + the Machine’s Past Success
Florence + the Machine debuted their first studio album “Lungs” in 2009. Welch and band-mate Isabelle Summers perfected the album’s sound with a variety of string instruments and emotionally mesmerizing lyrics with tracks such as “Cosmic Love,” where Welch describes heartbreak as an existential crisis, singing, “the stars, the moon, they have all been blown out/ You left me in the dark/ No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight/ In the shadow of your heart.”
The seemingly ceaseless success of “Lungs” dominated the charts and was featured in the United Kingdom’s top 40 for 65 consecutive weeks, making it one of the best-selling albums of 2009 and 2010.
Florence + the Machine’s crowd-pulling tactics continued to wow listeners and critics with their next two albums: “Ceremonials” and “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” Their third studio album was released in 2015 and debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. 200 — their first album to do so.
Given the indie ensemble’s ever-growing fan-base and critical acclaim, which includes recognition at the Grammy Awards as well as from iconic singers such as Sir Elton John, music lovers naturally rejoiced when the news of a fourth album titled “High as Hope,” was said to be in the works.
The New Album
Three years following the release of their last studio album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” Welch finally graced fans with news of a brand new album set to release in the summer of 2018. The hype originally stemmed from the group’s April single release “Sky Full of Song,” which came equipped with an artfully composed video and ignited rumors of an album project.
Before this, Florence + the Machine last released a single that was included for the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s 2016 film “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” titled “Wish You Were Here.” The single also made its way to the top 150 on the U.K. Singles Chart, but wasn’t quite enough to hold fans over in the years to come.
Amidst the excitement surrounding “Sky Full of Song,” Florence + the Machine released two additional tracks, “Hunger” and “Big God,” from the new album, packaged with two new visually aesthetic videos. “Hunger” took fans by storm with yet another display of Welch’s vocal prowess as well as insight into her own personal struggles with a past eating disorder and the loneliness of the spotlight. The video was equally as enticing with artistically crafted representations in a fractured sculpture that depicted themes such as the fruitless effort to fill the holes in your psyche with addictions or obsessions.
Less than two weeks after the video and single release of “Big God,” some are already referring to the track as one of the best music videos of the year. Welch’s typically awing vocals perfectly compliment the emotion in the lyrics that tell a tale of one of the worst feelings in modern day — being ghosted.
Welch and a group of women use interpretive dance in the ominous and minimalist video, as well as using different colored draped sheets and the natural movement of water below them to create a beautifully choreographed visual, which is representative of the song’s theme of underlying intentions and impact.
Many of the tracks on “High as Hope” share a reoccurring theme of the quest for connection with others, particularly found in “Big God.” However, “South London Forever,” serves as a highlight of the album, taking listeners down a pub-filled memory lane of Welch’s youth.
In the string-accompanied ballad, Welch longs for care-free days and details her experiences with young love and the wonder of her life ahead of her, singing, “And we’re just children wanting/children of our own/I wanted space to watch things grow/But did I dream too big? /Do I have to let it go? /What if one day there is no such thing as snow? /Oh God, what do I know?”
Exemplified by hits such as “What the Water Gave Me,” “High as Hope” is loaded with an operatic drama that showcases Welch’s vocal mastery. However, her usual powerhouse voice is at times tamed — albeit still awing — for some of the smoother tracks featured, including “Grace.” This subtleness of Welch’s subdued voice with the background piano perfectly parallels her own vulnerability revealed in the song’s intimate lyrics.
In “Grace,” Welch sings to her younger sister and details regret in ruining her 18th birthday. The instruments and vocal projection intensify in the chorus of the song where Welch’s emotions come soaring out as she sings, “Grace, I know you carry us / Grace, and it was such a mess / Grace, I don’t say it enough / Grace, you are so loved.”
The colorful prose and uniqueness that Florence + the Machine is famous for is overwhelmingly apparent on “High as Hope,” as are the pounding drums and heavy beat — usually associated with background clapping — that have defined the group’s past hits such as “Shake It Out.”
In the new track “Patricia,” Welch pays tribute to her idol, American singer-songwriter Patti Smith, referring to Smith as a “North Star,” guiding her to believe. Written in homage to the American artist, “Patricia” radiates in Welch’s passion and inspiration from Smith, which is only matched by the feel-good potency of the drums and whimsical melody.
Florence + the Machine’s latest album is reminiscent of “Ceremonials” and other past releases from the group. However, “High as Hope” unveils Welch’s talent of expressing the darkness within her own life in each poetic and mesmerizing song, leading some fans to conclude that four albums later, Welch is “finally letting us into her world.”
Florence + the Machine will set off for a North American tour in support of their newest collection on Aug. 9. The album is available now.