21 July 2018

Florence + The Machine - High as Hope

High as Hope is the fourth studio album Florence + The Machine, it's also the first album to be reviewed by myself instead of my good lady (you can read her reviews of the previous F+tM releases here).  After three well-received studio albums, Florence Welch can now be seen as a mainstay in the Indie Folk/Pop scene.  She is adored by millions, whilst simultaneously receiving a lot of criticism as well.  For everyone who says she has a voice of an angel, there is another who says she sings too loud.  To give my two pence worth, I find her voice charming, but I have wished at times that she approached some songs with a gentler feeling.  I say this so you can understand my point of view about High as Hope, as I approach this review.

High as Hope was released on 29th June 2018, it was recorded in various studios around the world, including Beacon House in Los Angeles and 123 in London.  It was co-produced between Ms Welch and American producer Emile Haynie, who has previously worked with Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars and many more.  It has been three years since How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful and times have changed.  F+tM can no longer be seen as the plucky underdogs that brought "Dog Days Are Over", those days are long gone.  As they release their fourth studio album, the level of expectation is huge.  Especially for an act which has their previous three albums topping the UK charts.  The only thing that kept High as Hope from repeating the same feat, was the juggernaut that is The Greatest Showman OST.

So, how has High as Hope turned out?  First things, the approach to High as Hope is exactly what I was hoping for, F+tM have finally learnt that you don't need every song to be the most important anthem in your life!  There are gentler moments on High as Hope.  The best examples of this new approach are the lead single "Sky Full of Song" and "No Choir".  Yes - they have builds, crescendos and such things, but they are also gentle and fragile.  It's something that has been missing from the previous F+tM releases and it's a joy to hear.

But do not fret dear reader, the anthems are still there, it wouldn't be an F+tM album without them.  Songs like "Hunger" and "Grace" are the big hitters and will sound luscious when performed live.  But the overarching feeling of High as Hope is emotions, especially emotional release.  There is the sound of regret ("Grace"), they deal with suicide ("The End of Love"), eating disorders ("Hunger"), there is the delightful "100 Years".  All of these combine to bring High as Hope together in a beautiful package.

On the flip side, it could be argued that this album feels too safe without the anthemic feeling to every song.  To be honest, that's fine by me.  It's about time for an album from F+tM that feels gentle, that soothes the spirit and aids in the healing process.  It is because of this feeling of connection and love that I have fallen under the charms of this record.  Is it one I would play every day?  Not really, but it's one that I admire and respect.  High as Hope is not the Florence + the Machine album people might have been hoping for, but it's the one that they needed.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - 100 Years

You can purchase High as Hope on Amazon here.

You can visit the Florence + The Machine website here. 

You can follow the activities of Florence + The Machine on Facebook here.

You can stream High as Hope on Spotify here.

You can stream High as Hope on Deezer here.

You can stream High as Hope on Tidal here.

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