A lifetime of anger, sadness, joy, hope, longing, regret and a whole slew of other emotions are captured on Florence + The Machines’ latest record “High As Hope,” the follow up to the expansive and captivating 2015 project “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.”
Florence Welch remains one of only a few artists who vocally can go toe-to-toe with such acts as Adele and Beyoncé. The UK singer is best known for her career making hits such as “Dog Days Are Over” and “Shake It Out,” anthems of positivity and joy.
“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is Florence’s most musically packed album full of massive ballads that could seemingly move oceans of people with the albums swaying string sections and undying hooks that will live on for ages as odes to Florence’s musical and lyrical capabilities.
“High As Hope,” on the other hand, is a wildly stripped back and a raw form for Florence to take on. Throughout the album, Florence lassos her voice from the heavens and brings it back down to earth to mingle with her band's sweet chords.
The opening track, “June,” is a slow burning and somber reflection on the Pulse Nightclub shooting that occurred while Florence was on tour. This is one of Florence’s first times stepping out of her mystical and enchanting world she so often paints for her audience and reflects on events as heavy and moving as a mass shooting. Florence effortlessly ties the feeling of being part of the LGBTQ community during that time in two simple lines, “In those heavy days in June/ When love became an act of defiance.” Florence leaves listeners with a simple message, “hold on to each other.”
Florence’s power lies within her ability to look inward and take what she learns from herself and reach out to her listeners — this is captured on her lead single “Hunger.” Hunger for Florence is a metaphor for the emptiness she feels, the emptiness she continuously tries to subdue whether through using people for their bodies or through drugs. She casually pulls her audience in and forms a community with her chorus belting out “we all have a hunger.”
“South London Forever” is a moving track looking back to Florence’s time during college when she drank, did drugs and truly believed that life would never get better than those moments. With a transparent look into her adolescent mind and youthful touch of hope she builds a nostalgic castle big enough to lose her way in.
Florence builds on her feeling of emptiness with the song “Big God” which, as Florence put it, is “mainly about someone not replying to my text.”
Florence fell short on her previous album by looking almost exclusively inward at her feelings and blaming a man for what she is going through but grows on “High As Hope” by taking precious moments on “Grace” to thoroughly thank her sister and time on “Patricia” to praise singer/songwriter Patti Smith.
Florence’s fourth studio album reaches its pinnacle on “The End of Love,” where Florence explores family drama and the need to fill more and more of the emptiness that continuously grows within her.
“High As Hope” is Florence’s best piece of work. It never flies as high as half the songs on “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” but with a replaced subject matter Florence seems to have realized that even without the pomp and circumstance her feelings are valid and worth sharing, worth relating to other people and worth her time to express.
Clearly “High As Hope” was made during a meditative time in Florence’s life, but Florence isn’t blind to the fact that if you dwell on the darkness and longing within your life for too long it can start to consume you from the inside out.
Florence finds peace in her closing song “No Choir” which explores the idea that love doesn’t have to be this giant, loud event in someone’s life for it to be real love. Florence openly admits that happiness to her is an “uneventful subject.”
The conclusion to “High As Hope” can pinpointed on verse two of “No Choir” where Florence reaches the understanding that “..the loneliness never left me/ I always took it with me/ But I can put it down in the pleasure of your company.”
Colton Newman is the photo editor and a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at @email@example.com or on Twitter @Coltonperson.