Florence Welch and her Machine are back with fourth album High as Hope. Besides the usual lineup, this time the Machine can count Jamie xx, Kamasai Washington, Sampha and Tobias Jesso Jr. among its turning cogs. Despite the collaborations, things tend to sound quite stripped-down and sincere, as Welch gracefully covers love, loneliness and other intimate lyrical topics.
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Limited Vinyl LP £21.49 VX3204
Limited edition, yellow vinyl LP on Virgin EMI. Includes 12-page booklet.
8/10 Greg 14th January 2019
“The show was ending, and I had started to crack…”
These are the first set of lyrics that you hear, and it pretty much sets the tone for what Florence Welch presents to us on Florence + the Machine’s fourth album ‘High As Hope’. This is not the Florence that is filled with bombast and spectacle; instead it is the Florence that is vulnerable, filled with melancholy and above all else, proving she’s only human just like the rest of us. Somehow, this make her sound just as powerful as ever, if not more. In a time where love itself can be seen as “an act of defiance”, Welch pleas for humanity to “Hold on to each other” on the opening track “June”. But it’s the next two tracks that sees Welch stripping her soul bare like never before. “Hunger” sees Welch recounting her disorders as a teen and her proneness to self-destruction over structured strings and instrumentation, while “South London Forever” sees a now-sober Welch looking back on her hard-partying, alcohol-fuelled days with a mix of fondness and regret. “Big God” is a great example of how ‘less is more’, with its foreboding piano and brooding vibes while Welch explores the weird corners of her vocal abilities rather than pushing for perfection. “Grace” is an emotional love letter to her younger sister which asks for forgiveness for her past, chaotic behaviour, and it gives Welch the space she needs to no longer hold back and unleashes her vocal prowess. “Patricia” is Welch’s tribute to Patti Smith, one of her biggest musical influences, while “100 Years” is a majestic orchestral sweep punctuated by percussive stomps and handclaps. The last song “No Choir” is probably the most revealing of all, with Welch’s lyrics admitting her need for an audience used to compensate for her insecurity and loneliness, but she has made herself self-reliant and at peace with it all in the end.
Maybe that’s what ‘High As Hope’ is all about: learning to accept your vulnerabilities and treating them as a personal growth, and as a result, these ten songs that’s more human, laid bare and filled with raw emotion than ever without the need to be thunderous and grandiose about it, and that’s exactly what Florence + the Machine has done here.
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