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Florence + The Machine|How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Deluxe Edition) (Deluxe)

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Deluxe Edition) (Deluxe)

Florence + The Machine

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The much-anticipated third studio long-player from Florence Welch and her mechanically inclined companions, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful arrives after a period of recalibration for the spirited English songtress. Arriving three-and-a-half years after 2011's well-received Ceremonials, the 11-track set, the first Florence + the Machine album to be produced by Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay), eschews some of the bombast and water- and death-fixated metaphors of Lungs and Ceremonials in favor of a more restrained sonic scope and an honest reckoning with the dark follies of your late twenties. This change is most notable on the workmanlike opener "Ship to Wreck," a shimmering, open road-ready folk-rock rumination on the ambiguity/inevitability of post-fame self-destruction that, unlike prior first cuts like "Dog Days Are Over" and "Only If for a Night," feels firmly rooted in the now. Whether it be simple maturity or Dravs' calculated production style, there's no denying that an effort has been made to dial back a bit on some of the pageantry of Welch's earlier works, and for the most part, her penchant for pairing mystic Bronte-esque pondering with similarly windswept pagan/gothic gospel rock is left bubbling beneath the surface. This attempt to reign in Welch's more histrionic tendencies yields mixed results, with some songs finding the sweet spot between bluster and nuance and others (most of them in the album's sleepy latter half) disappearing altogether. Of the former, the bluesy (and ballsy) "What a Man," the propulsive and purposeful "Delilah," and the gorgeous title track impress the most. Instead of building to a fevered crescendo, as is the Flo-Machine way, the latter cut, a transcendent, slow-burning, chamber pop gem, dissolves into a simple and elegant, yet still goose-bump-inducing round of horns, and is breathtaking without knocking the wind out of you. Whether How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful ends up being a transitional album remains to be seen, as there is enough of each side of Welch (the pastoral and the feral) represented to tip the scale either way. That said, her Brit-pop soul treacle is still miles better than some of her contemporaries' top-tier offerings, and when the album connects it moves right in and starts to redecorate, but when it falters, it's akin to a chatty party guest failing to realize that everyone else has gone home.

© James Christopher Monger /TiVo

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How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Deluxe Edition) (Deluxe)

Florence + The Machine

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1
Ship To Wreck
00:03:54

James Hallawell, Organ, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Mark 'Spike' Stent, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Markus Dravs, Producer, Glockenspiel, AssociatedPerformer - Leo Abrahams, Acoustic Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Robin Baynton, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tom Hull, ComposerLyricist - Rob Ackroyd, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Kid Harpoon, Producer, Drums, Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Percussion, Synthesizer, AssociatedPerformer - Baby N'Sola, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Geoff Swan, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Janelle Martin, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Nim Miller, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

2
What Kind Of Man
00:03:36

Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - John Hill, Producer, Co-Arranger, Co-Producer, Synthesizer, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Ed Tarrant, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Andy Crowley, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Richard Edwards, Trombone, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Mark 'Spike' Stent, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Andy Wood, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Nigel Black, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Markus Dravs, Producer, Percussion, Synthesizer, AssociatedPerformer - Tom Rees-Roberts, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - John Barclay, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Leo Abrahams, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Oren Marshall, Tuba, AssociatedPerformer - Joe Kearns, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mat Bartram, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Robin Baynton, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Zac Baird, Synthesizer, AssociatedPerformer - Tom Hull, ComposerLyricist - Sam Jacobs, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Rob Ackroyd, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Kid Harpoon, Co-Arranger, AssociatedPerformer - Baby N'Sola, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Philip Cobb, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Geoff Swan, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Iain Berryman, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ronan Phelan, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Janelle Martin, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Pip Eastop, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Nim Miller, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Elise Campbell, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

3
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
00:05:34

Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Belton, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Eliza Marshall, Flute, AssociatedPerformer - Fiona Bonds, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Chris Worsey, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Burdge, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Ed Tarrant, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Richard Pryce, Double Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Humphries, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Andy Crowley, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Richard Edwards, Trombone, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Steve Jones, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Julia Singleton, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Nick Cooper, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Sally Herbert, Conductor - Sophie Harris, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Andy Wood, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Nigel Black, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Markus Dravs, Producer - Emlyn Singleton, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Patrick Kiernan, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Tom Rees-Roberts, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - John Barclay, Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Sonia Slany, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Lucy Shaw, Double Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Rachel Robson, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Gillon Cameron, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Oren Marshall, Tuba, AssociatedPerformer - Max Baillie, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Isabella Summers, Organ, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mat Bartram, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Robin Baynton, Engineer, Organ, Piano, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Alison Dods, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Rathbone, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Natalia Bonner, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Sam Jacobs, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Rob Ackroyd, Acoustic Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Philip Cobb, Trumpet, Muted Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Ali Helnwein, String Arranger, AssociatedPerformer - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Ronan Phelan, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Prokopiw, Harp, Cimbalom, AssociatedPerformer - Pip Eastop, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Ciaran McCabe, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Anne Morfee, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - John Smart, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Elise Campbell, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Will Owen, Horn Arranger, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

4
Queen Of Peace
00:05:07

Rick Koster, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - James Hallawell, Organ, AssociatedPerformer - Eliza Marshall, Flute, AssociatedPerformer - Daniel Newell, Flugelhorn, Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Burdge, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Ed Tarrant, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Everton Nelson, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Andy Crowley, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Richard Edwards, Trombone, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sally Herbert, Conductor, Co-Arranger, AssociatedPerformer - Andy Wood, Euphonium, Trombone, AssociatedPerformer - Nigel Black, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Markus Dravs, Producer, ComposerLyricist - Bruce White, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Tom Rees-Roberts, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Benson, Co-Arranger, Keyboards, Programming, AssociatedPerformer - John Barclay, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Nick Barr, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Gillon Cameron, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Leo Abrahams, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Oren Marshall, Tuba, AssociatedPerformer - Matt Ingram, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Dan Cox, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mat Bartram, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Robin Baynton, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Oli Langford, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Sam Jacobs, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Rob Ackroyd, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Baby N'Sola, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Philip Cobb, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Ronan Phelan, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Janelle Martin, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Rusty Bradshaw, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - Pip Eastop, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Nim Miller, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Matthew Gunner, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Elise Campbell, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

5
Various Storms & Saints
00:04:09

Ian Belton, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Fiona Bonds, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Chris Worsey, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Burdge, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Richard Pryce, Double Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Humphries, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Julia Singleton, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Nick Cooper, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Sally Herbert, Conductor - Sophie Harris, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Markus Dravs, Producer, Synthesizer, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Emlyn Singleton, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Patrick Kiernan, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Sonia Slany, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Lucy Shaw, Double Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Rachel Robson, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Leo Abrahams, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Max Baillie, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mat Bartram, Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Robin Baynton, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Alison Dods, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Ian Rathbone, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Natalia Bonner, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Ronan Phelan, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ciaran McCabe, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Anne Morfee, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - John Smart, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Will Owen, String Arranger, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

6
Delilah
00:04:53

Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Markus Dravs, Producer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Leo Abrahams, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Isabella Summers, ComposerLyricist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Robin Baynton, Engineer, Organ, Piano, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Prokopiw, Programming, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

7
Long & Lost
00:03:15

Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - James Hallawell, Organ, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Steve Jones, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Ester Dean, ComposerLyricist - Markus Dravs, Producer, Programming, AssociatedPerformer - Benson, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Robin Baynton, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Rob Ackroyd, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Prokopiw, Programming, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

8
Caught
00:04:24

Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Markus Dravs, Producer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - James Ford, ComposerLyricist - Joe Kearns, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Rob Ackroyd, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Iain Berryman, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Harmonium, Asst. Recording Engineer, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

9
Third Eye
00:04:20

Mark Saunders, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Ed Tarrant, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Andy Crowley, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Richard Edwards, Trombone, AssociatedPerformer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Mark 'Spike' Stent, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Sally Herbert, Conductor - Andy Wood, Euphonium, AssociatedPerformer - Nigel Black, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Markus Dravs, Producer, Electric Guitar, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Tom Rees-Roberts, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - John Barclay, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Leo Abrahams, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Oren Marshall, Tuba, AssociatedPerformer - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Percussion, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mat Bartram, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Robin Baynton, Engineer, Piano, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Sam Jacobs, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Rob Ackroyd, Electric Guitar, Ukulele, AssociatedPerformer - Baby N'Sola, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Philip Cobb, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Geoff Swan, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Iain Berryman, Cornet, Percussion, Asst. Recording Engineer, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Ronan Phelan, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Janelle Martin, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Pip Eastop, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Chris Hayden, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Nim Miller, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Elise Campbell, French Horn, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

10
St Jude
00:03:45

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sally Herbert, Conductor, Co-Arranger, AssociatedPerformer - Markus Dravs, Producer, Co-Arranger, Programming, AssociatedPerformer - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - James Ford, Co-Arranger, Programming, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Robin Baynton, Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Iain Berryman, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Prokopiw, Programming, AssociatedPerformer - Rebecca Wood, Cor Anglais, Oboe, AssociatedPerformer - Jonathan Sagis, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Pete Harrison, Bassoon, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

11
Mother
00:05:49

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Paul Epworth, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Organ, Percussion, Synthesizer, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Craig Silvey, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Matt Wiggins, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Eduardo De La Paz, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

12
Hiding (Bonus Track)
00:03:52

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Mark 'Spike' Stent, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - James Ford, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Piano, Synthesizer, Programming, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Jimmy Robertson, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Geoff Swan, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

13
Make Up Your Mind (Bonus Track)
00:04:01

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Vocals, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Charlie Hugall, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, Percussion, Programming, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Tom Hull, ComposerLyricist - Rob Ackroyd, Acoustic Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Kid Harpoon, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Piano, Co-Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Chris Hayden, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Tom Monger, Harp, AssociatedPerformer - Orlando Leopard, Co-Arranger, Bass Guitar, Organ, Piano, Harmonium, AssociatedPerformer - Will Donbavand, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

14
Which Witch (Demo / Bonus Track)
00:04:19

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Isabella Summers, Producer, Drums, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Strings, Synthesizer, Programming, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Florence Welch, Percussion, Vocals, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Catlin, Assistant Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Charlie Hugall, Mixer, StudioPersonnel - Alex Beitzke, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Roulston, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Nick Walters, Trumpet, AssociatedPerformer - Wayne Francis, Saxophone, AssociatedPerformer - Adman Dayes, Trombone, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

15
Third Eye (Demo)
00:04:15

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brett Shaw, Producer, Mixer, Engineer, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Florence Welch, Percussion, Piano, Vocals, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

16
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Demo)
00:04:32

Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Florence + The Machine, MainArtist - Isabella Summers, Producer, Drums, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Organ, Percussion, Synthesizer, Programming, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Florence Welch, Vocals, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Ali Helnwein, Strings, AssociatedPerformer - Alex Beitzke, Engineer, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Roulston, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2015 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

Resenha do Álbum

The much-anticipated third studio long-player from Florence Welch and her mechanically inclined companions, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful arrives after a period of recalibration for the spirited English songtress. Arriving three-and-a-half years after 2011's well-received Ceremonials, the 11-track set, the first Florence + the Machine album to be produced by Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay), eschews some of the bombast and water- and death-fixated metaphors of Lungs and Ceremonials in favor of a more restrained sonic scope and an honest reckoning with the dark follies of your late twenties. This change is most notable on the workmanlike opener "Ship to Wreck," a shimmering, open road-ready folk-rock rumination on the ambiguity/inevitability of post-fame self-destruction that, unlike prior first cuts like "Dog Days Are Over" and "Only If for a Night," feels firmly rooted in the now. Whether it be simple maturity or Dravs' calculated production style, there's no denying that an effort has been made to dial back a bit on some of the pageantry of Welch's earlier works, and for the most part, her penchant for pairing mystic Bronte-esque pondering with similarly windswept pagan/gothic gospel rock is left bubbling beneath the surface. This attempt to reign in Welch's more histrionic tendencies yields mixed results, with some songs finding the sweet spot between bluster and nuance and others (most of them in the album's sleepy latter half) disappearing altogether. Of the former, the bluesy (and ballsy) "What a Man," the propulsive and purposeful "Delilah," and the gorgeous title track impress the most. Instead of building to a fevered crescendo, as is the Flo-Machine way, the latter cut, a transcendent, slow-burning, chamber pop gem, dissolves into a simple and elegant, yet still goose-bump-inducing round of horns, and is breathtaking without knocking the wind out of you. Whether How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful ends up being a transitional album remains to be seen, as there is enough of each side of Welch (the pastoral and the feral) represented to tip the scale either way. That said, her Brit-pop soul treacle is still miles better than some of her contemporaries' top-tier offerings, and when the album connects it moves right in and starts to redecorate, but when it falters, it's akin to a chatty party guest failing to realize that everyone else has gone home.

© James Christopher Monger /TiVo

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