AS HIGH AS HOPE
-FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE ARE BACK
It has been almost three years since Florence and the Machine last released an album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful. And now, they have just released their fourth and highly anticipated album: High as Hope. The album, unlike any other Florence and the Machine album, is distinctly stripped back. Flo’s voice is still as powerful as ever but with a more whimsical feel than ever. The overriding feeling is that this album is raw and honest: Flo’s reflection on her younger years juxtaposes with her previous albums with earth shattering vocals. Loud ballads of battle cry beauty from the fiery-haired vocalist are somewhat transient on the new album. Florence embraces this bare style and faces her past in an organic and original sense. Is this the calm after the storm? ‘South London Forever’ is increasingly reminiscent of the past: “with the art students and boys in bands / high on E and holding hands with somebody I just met”. Is this a message to the younger ones to embrace their youth and enjoy moments of madness? Brutally honest with the listener, the upbeat intro to the song ‘Hunger’ starts with: “At 17 I started to starve myself”, leaving the listener to cope with a contrast that is deliciously dark. Florence directly addresses her eating disorder she experienced as a teenager and drug abuse searching for love in the wrong places. She does this in a remarkable way, that somehow uplifts the listener- reminding them again to enjoy youthful moments.
‘Big God’ is definitely a more orchestrally focused track in the early moments. It gathers momentum and struts with confidence. Though big, it arguably feels restrained. It is plausible for this to be side effect of Florence’s calmer side. Another sense of reflection arises especially in the song ‘A Sky Full of Songs’, with the lyrics: “take me down I’m too tired now”. ‘Patricia’ however, truly saves this album from the category of subdued, and remains a pinnacle of the album. Akin to dance beats like ‘Lover to Lover’ and ‘What Kind of Man?’, ‘Patricia’ picks up the pace, and shines as one of the bolder tracks against the gentler, warm charms of the rest of the album.
Overall, the theme of less is more is a surprising and unusual notion not commonly associated with Florence. She is often associated and known for her loud, strong demeanour and voice. The album concludes with ‘No Choir’. Florence addresses the audience with “And it’s hard to write about being happy because the older I get/ I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject/ there will be no grand choirs to sing” . In this track there is no choir of a hundred Florence’s with a hundred bells: just Florence and a piano. Which leaves ‘No Choir’ as the most symbolic of the entire album.