Album Review: Florence + The Machine – High As Hope (2018 LP)

There’s something about Florence + The Machine‘s new album, High As Hope, that can leave a listener full of confidence, ready to burst. This feeling isn’t exactly new, when looking at a back catalogue that includes the likes of “Shake It Out” and “Dog Days Are Over”, but as you take the journey with Florence Welch from “June” through to “No Choir”, there’s a refreshed majesty with how the vocalist and songwriter has approached her craft.

Indeed, High As Hope may be the most open she has been on record; “Hunger” details a battle with an eating disorder, while “June” establishes the tone early. “The show was ending and I had started to crack, woke up in Chicago and the sky turned black,” she sings. “You’re so high, so high, you have to be an angel; I’m so high, I’m so high, I can see an angel.”

High As Hope is Florence at her most intimate on record, embracing the darkness with the light that was waiting to welcome her, as she navigated some pretty heavy emotional personal territory as Lungs propelled her into the arms of worldwide fame. As “Hunger” ramps up in energy though, Florence comes to life within this album anthem; second chances wait for everyone and they’re ready to be grabbed when we are.

“I thought I was flying, but maybe I’m dying tonight,” she wonders on “Sky Full of Song”. What would be a grim lyric on its own, gets the full Florence treatment, with soaring harmonies driven by gorgeous bass and string sections. The listener doesn’t get a chance to be down while listening to the contemplative moments, our songwriter heroine won’t allow it.

Great contrasts shine throughout; “Big God” is stomper, while “Grace” is textbook Florence Welch, full of soul, accompanied by a piano and a vocal that owns every bit of space it occupies.

The melodramatic energy that drenched previous Florence + The Machine releases (particularly How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful) has prominence, instead, Florence uses that weapon of a voice as a battle cry for openness, honesty and the newfound optimism that can accompany becoming comfortable with getting older and wiser, for the majority of the album. A less is more approach was key with High As Hope and the result is incredibly rewarding.

Review Score: 8.4 out of 10.


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