Florence + the Machine – High As Hope
Indie Rock | Baroque Pop
Florence’s music has always felt like a religious experience in some shape or form. While her previous landmark record How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was a triumphant rise through the clouds towards Mount Olympus, High As Hope is more like the Garden of Eden; a natural beauty marked by humanity and sin. The confessional lyrics and deeply stripped back arrangements come across as pretty striking on the first listen. Florence has placed herself under intense scrutiny here, laying her soul bare and exposing all her flaws. But what does not kill you makes you stronger, and the catharsis of releasing all those pent-up inner thoughts and frustrations just serves to fan the flames of her passionate performance. In sharing her human side, High As Hope shows Florence at her very best both vocally and lyrically.
While Florence is on fine form though, the Machine is notably absent in places. While the balance is just right on tracks like ‘Big God’, ‘100 Years’ and album highlight ‘Hunger’, often the arrangements are too stripped back and much of the magic is lost. Songs like ‘Sky Full Of Song’ and ‘No Choir’ remind me of those isolated vocal videos on YouTube, and end up feeling like unfinished demos. While the album has its fair share of great tracks, and is a fascinating change-up stylistically, it neither grabs your attention nor stays with you in quite the way that its predecessor does. While I can certainly appreciate all that Florence has achieved here, it’s sadly not an album that I see myself coming back to all that often. I think there is a perfect centre somewhere between the grandeur of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, and the raw, honest approach of High As Hope that will be Florence + the Machines crowning glory, so hopefully this is an important step along that road.