Three years since How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the unmistakeable sound of Florence and The Machine is back on our airwaves once again. Still the ethereal, powerful, force of nature she always has been; but this time the delivery of her trademark elemental themes is more delicate, calm, as if Florence has arrived at peace with the feeling and emotions she’s always sang about with such vigour. In this eye of the storm record, Florence tells us of her deepest secrets.
The record opens with June, the track is slow and soft. It has moments where it builds, and you expect Florence to explode and for the track to do the same, but it doesn’t. This defines how this record is going to be different, from the outset, we see a calmer Florence Welch. This change in deliverance works so well as it forces you to pay attention to the lyrics, which all throughout the record tell the tale of troubling times and her deepest feelings.
Hunger, the second single released from High as Hope jumps straight in to Florence Welch’s most personal troubles with opening lyric “at seventeen I started to starve myself, I thought love was a kind of emptiness”. It’s almost jarring to hear, yet sets the tone of the album. It’s been hailed as Florence’s most personal, intimate work yet. So much so that sometimes you feel like you shouldn’t be listening, like you’re overhearing a conversation that wasn’t meant for you.
Patricia was written about American singer songwriter Patti Smith, known as the “punk Poet Laureate”. In the track, Florence refers to Patti, or “Patricia” as having always been her “North Star”.
The album is not short of female influence as Grace is directed to her younger sister in an attempt to make amends. Florence has spoken before about a troubled relationship with her younger sister, Grace. Speaking to Annie Mac, she said that she always felt like the younger sister, despite being older than Grace, who tended to have to look after Florence a lot. In the track, Florence sings of ruined birthdays, and how she thought going back to university would make her mother proud.
On The End of Love, Florence addresses her Grandmother’s suicide and again, we are sucked in to something that feels like a diary, a family discussion that we shouldn’t be hearing. it’s quite astounding what Florence has let us in too.
High As Hope was written mostly in Peckham, near Florence’s home. Some was added in LA with co-producer Emile Haynie (Welch herself is the executive producer) and in New York. In South London, she collaborated with the likes of Jamie XX, who helped on Big God, and Sampha, who co-wrote and features on Grace.
This record sees Florence and The Machine go back to raw mechanics of what makes them so excellent; rawness, emotion, and honesty. There may be less anthems, less belting and no ‘Dog Days are Over’ but this record leaves us with a connection to Florence and an understanding of where she’s come from. This record invites us be not only a listener, but a friend.
Listen to High as Hope by Florence and The Machine here: