Review: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + the Machine

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + the MachineMy biggest complaint with Florence + the Machine’s second record, Ceremonials, is how it sounded too big. Sure, it did live up to the title, but without breathing space to keep things down to earth, it lost the gravitas it wanted to evoke. She finally gets that with the follow-up. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is striking for a number of reasons, the most noticeable being how quiet Florence Welch can be. Sure, she still uses her bombastic force of a voice to propel things, but not all the time; tracks like “St. Jude” and “Long & Lost” trade on her reeling it in, providing an intimacy never reached in her previous albums. The dramatic flourishes now come through the more driving arrangements and, especially in the first half of the album, a rollicking brass section. Producer Markus Dravs (he worked on the first two Mumford & Sons records, as well as Arcade Fire’s Reflektor) is shrewd enough to let Florence do what she feels is right, but at the same time tweak things so they seem different. If you think about it, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful isn’t a departure from Lungs or Ceremonials – but by tinkering with other variables in the formula, we get an album that seems different, but not shockingly so. [NB]4/5

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