Florence + the Machine – High as Hope (Album Review)

Florence + the Machine – High as Hope (Album Review)

If you love music, no matter the genre, chances are you have heard of Florence + the Machine, that Indie Rock outfit who has one of the most prestigious reputations in modern music. Now, their fourth opus, High as Hope, arrives Friday, June 29, 2018, thanks to Republic Records. What better way to celebrate the dog days of summer?

Formed in London in 2007, Florence + the Machine (or the style-less Florence and the Machine) – the musical guise of core duo Vocalist/Percussionist Florence Welch and Keyboardist Isabella Summers – saw their rise to prominence much in thanks to the BBC, who touted their music wholeheartedly from nearly day one.

Their masterpiece of a debut album, 2009’s Lungs, only served to buoy their reputation for artful and intelligent music and inspired stage shows, leading to continued success with the likes of 2011’s Ceremonials and 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Awards and accolades have followed, including a slew of Grammy Award nominations as well as being honored with an invitation to perform at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

These days, Florence + the Machine is composed of Welch and a cavalcade of studio and touring musicians, though thankfully none of that intelligent spark has been lost in translation. If anything, the sound is better than ever on their fourth studio offering, the 10-song High as Hope. Here, Welch splits production duties with Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, Kid Cudi), who also performs synths and drum work on the collection. Ultimately, this allows for a collection that is intelligently cohesive, despite its experimentally artistic spirit; free-spirited Art Pop that is too intelligent to be Pop, and too wonderfully delicious to be denied.

High as Hope opens to Welch’s beautiful vocals paving the way into “June,” a track which grows in layers and sounds, building toward a languid, ambient atmosphere that feels equal parts sultry and heavenly. This ultimately segues beautifully into the steady beat of obvious single “Hunger” (“You make a fool of death with your beauty”), an offering that tantalizes with soaring vocals, steady, clap-along beats, and an organic infectiousness that will have you dancing along. There is something worth smiling about when all of these elements combine in an intense moment of stellar musicianship that worms its way immediately into your heart. This, my friends, is the heart of Florence + the Machine!

The prominent tap of the downtempo “South London Forever” (“And everything I ever did was just another way to scream your name”) feels like the creep of a hazy summer afternoon spent in the sunshine, but is a reminiscence of younger years, things past, and the big dreams that we dream when we are just fireflies in the night. (That is to say, it’s all very poetic.) Meanwhile, echoes of Tori Amos (“God”) resonate in the experimentally minimalist offering “Big God” (“You’ll always be my favorite ghost”), a look at the dichotomies of things that are much bigger than ourselves.

Welch opens up “Sky Full of Song” (“I thought I was flying but maybe I’m dying tonight”) with a beautiful A cappella before the band slowly slink in, but it remains entirely minimalist with layered harmonies and bass holding down the bulk of the track’s musicality, as well as that voice. Oh, that voice! Then, the epic of beauty that is “Grace” begins with piano that twinkles into sultry jazziness, emanating across a peaceful pasture of insightful lyrics sung by a real-life angel. Next, they pick the beat back up with “Patricia” (“Oh Patricia, you’ve always been my North Star”), a steady toe-tap, while the infectious seduction of “100 Years” sees a funky stomp underlying its ethereal base.

The layered vocal harmonies on “The End of Love” are accompanied by flawless piano, all merging together to author a gorgeously minimalist ballad that shows the soaring emotional nature of Welch and co.’s superb sonic prowess. Ultimately, they close with Welch beginning A cappella once again, leading into “No Choir,” a gorgeous representation of their sincere, unadulterated talents that closes the album out on a beautifully perfect breath.

In 2018, it feels like so few things, musical or otherwise, are ever truly deserving of their hype. Florence + the Machine, however, are worthy of every single note of praise heaped in their direction: yes, they are just that damn good. Delectable, even. Inspired music is generally always intelligent, achieving a next-level sophistication that is both artful and organic; a sound that is achieved through superb talents and ingenuity, not studio technology.

On High as Hope, Welch and her merry band of misfits weave stories that are poetry on paper while always music to the ears, matured prose that coalesce together into a tapestry that is colorful art of the highest caliber. If you love music, if you live music, if you breathe music, you cannot help but love Florence + the Machine. For these reasons, CrypticRock give their latest, High as Hope, 5 of 5 stars.

Purchase High as Hope:

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Jeannie Blue
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Jeannie likes to joke that she is little, yellow, blue, and different. She seemingly popped out of her mother's womb with a pen in her hand and has been writing ever since. Many moons ago - in what feels like a separate lifetime - Jean was co-editor of an online music magazine that afforded her great opportunities to interview and photograph some of her favorite bands/musicians: Tommy Lee, Good Charlotte, Warrant, Bring Me The Horizon, My Chemical Romance, Sevendust, New Found Glory, Deftones, Poison, VH-1 "Band On the Run" Flickerstick, an endless list of unsigned locals, and so many others. These days, she can usually be found hiking aimlessly through the woods in her favorite Technicolor sneakers with a Nikon in hand and her rescue dog, Molly, who is a bit hare-brained.

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