Andrew Reviews Florence + The Machine’s “High As Hope”

Andrew Reviews Florence + The Machine’s “High As Hope”

 

When you think of the name Florence Welch, what words spring to mind? “Goddess” or “otherworldly” would be two of the first things that I’d think of. Yes, it’s true that Florence has made a career during her first three albums of taking the sonic ambrosia she calls a voice and blessing us mortals with earth-shattering anthems like “Cosmic Love” or “Shake It Out” that get listeners in communion with the divine. If you’ve ever been to a Florence + The Machine show before, you know the feeling.

The new record, however, takes a different approach. If her first three records conjured the infinite, her fourth LP, High As Hope, is profoundly human. This record sees Florence at her most lyrically and musically intimate, taking the spotlight she’d previously shone unto heaven and turning it upon herself. We get glimpses of her teenage days, both good and bad. “South London Forever” gives us a glimpse of nights of revelry in her hometown of Camberwell, of being “young and drunk and stumbling in the street/outside the Joiners Arms like foals unsteady on their feet.” Standing in contrast is the album’s second single, “Hunger,” which starts with the frank confession, “at seventeen, I started to starve myself.”

Florence also uses this new album to give us a look at the people around her who made her who she is. “Grace” is a half-ode, half-apology to her younger sister, the left-brained rock to Florence’s creative–and at times, messy–personality. She pays tribute to her musical idol, Patti Smith, on “Patricia,” telling her that she’s “always been my North star.” Piece by piece, through memories and stories of friends and idols, we get the image of the real Florence Welch, the one we never knew.

We also get the spotlight shone at us, as well. This record gives us direct instructions for life on the opener “June,” where Florence sings  “hold on to each other,” a refrain that sprung out of her despair after June 2016’s Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.  We even get self-aware musings on songwriting in the standout “The End of Love” “I dreamt last night of a sign that read/the end of love/and I remember thinking/even in my dreaming it was a good line for a song.”

High As Hope might not inspire the earth-shattering hallelujahs that, say, Ceremonials does, but it does something that no prior FATM album can say: it gives us a glimpse into the life of Florence Welch, the person–and that person knows how to write a damn good song.

Score: An angel lifting you out of your armchair and floating you above London before gently landing you in the English countryside.

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