After nearly four years since the release of 2011’s Ceremonials, Florence Welch and bandmates release their most personal, stripped down record yet. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful comes from the depths of a heartbreak. Filled with heavy drama and huge soulful vocals, this isn’t your light-hearted and fun album of the summer, but a festival-ready powerful collection of some of the band’s best work yet.
Album openers “Ship to Wreck” and “What Kind of Men” are big bellowing tracks. Welch croons with power as she sings, “How do you do it? I think I’m through it/Then I’m back against the wall.” A jungle jim of big choruses and vocals, these two tracks especially are huge and sailing up and down with booming guitar riffs. As on previous records, there is no question that Welch’s voice still takes command of the album, but How Big has quieter times amongst the lavish echoes. “Various Storms & Saints” and “Delilah” are more somber, softer tracks leaving room for us to feel as Welch does, to ache as she aches. On “St. Jude,” Welch admits she has “always been more comfortable in chaos” and we are transported to a celestial twinkly track fluffy with emotional depth. In contrast to the hooky and endearing “Dogs Days Are Over” off of 2009’s Lungs, songs including “St. Jude” and moody “Long & Lost” offer up a more delicate Welch. Fragility and vulnerability are close as she admits to “needing the clouds to cover (her)”–talk about the heartbreak of the century!
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful doubles as a stadium album heavy and big as well as a raw and emotional confessional of Welch’s personal relationship. These aren’t the catchy pop hooks we are used to, but How Big is relatable and welcoming. As soulful and loud as the album is, there is a sincere quietness throughout. Welch is hurting, is cut open, yet remains unvanquished and we are exposed to all of it.