Album of the Week: Florence and the Machine, 'High As Hope'

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Florence + the Machine, 'High As Hope'
Florence + the Machine, 'High As Hope' (Virgin EMI / Republic Records)
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The latest Florence and The Machine album, High As Hope, may as well be Pandora's album. Once opened, a swirling emotional wash of memories from the distant and recent past rush out. An epic told in ballad form of a lifetime seen through the eyes of someone who never lost their youthful flair for the dramatic.

Wrapped up in that nostalgia is a chance to dissect and reveal behavior. Time is taken to reflect, and hindsight allows for self-mythology. Childhood eating disorders are equated to loneliness ("Hunger"), drug-induced injurious behavior becomes a plea for forgiveness ("Grace"), Patti Smith is praised to almost saint-like status ("Patricia"), and even getting ghosted by a crush is taken to Shakespearean tragedy levels with "Big God" - all underscored by horn section arranged by Kamasi Washington for added drama. It's as exhausting, euphoric, and cathartic as finding and reading a teenage diary.

The lyrics are a live wire waiting for the music to touch it to spark a flame. Florence Welch's voice is raw and feral, even using her exhaled breath to accentuate the desperation, yearning, and frustration in her story. A deep thud of drums provides the architecture for the hyperbolic "best night ever" felt in "South London Forever." Memories of nights where the only concern is the building anticipation from fingertips touching to the hopes of forever. Thumping piano and heartbeat echoing drums create spectacle in "Big God," which finds Welch ready to pounce. Each song builds to a sweeping wail of emotion with full orchestra: viola, violin, cello, multiple drums, the horn section, synthesizer, piano, keys, bass, guitar, and even harp for good measure.

The last song off High As Hope, "No Choir," pushes the melodramatic music away and speaks to the listener directly, "I gathered you here to hide from some vast unnamable fear." Making the audience complicit in this story, the past mistakes laid bare and questioning if old habits can be left behind. Welch longs for a life so calm and good that "there will be no grand choirs to sing, no chorus will come in, no ballad will be written, this will be entirely forgotten." Until then, she offers up an epic album of swoon-worthy sing-a-longs.

Resources


Florence + The Machine - Official Site

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