Review: Florence and the Machine’s ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ Howls at the Darkness

Florence Welch cracked open her ribs and disposed all of her soul into her new record, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, released on June 1. The album is already No. 1 in the United Kingdom.

Welch’s voice trembles, whispers and rises to the tops of the mountains throughout the album, deliriously going back and forth between her opposing personas – intense, running wild and passionate – while the other is quiet, calm and wrapped in pastel hued dreams.

I didn’t realize how much I loved this album until someone asked me to describe it and I just found myself ranting about it and Welch’s genius. Music is a crucial part in my life-millions of memories and feelings are coiled around specific lyrics, around the dip and rise of a singer’s voice, the themes explored throughout it.

This album is one that will go into the bookshelf of my heart.

Welch’s obsessive love affair with the ocean is accentuated, reflected in the song titles and her brilliant songwriting. The first song, “A Ship to Wreck,” immediately exposes her use of sleeping pills, and feelings of drowning and building a dream that quickly crumbles after she fulfills it.

I began to cry when “Delilah,” referencing the woman who led Samson to his downfall in the Bible, began to play.

The lyrics “cause I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine” latched onto my chest like a harpoon. I envisioned myself in a dungeon and finally seeing the sun after an eternity of suffocating in the darkness.

In the song, Welch’s identity alters as she sings about becoming Delilah’s student, “one more boy, one more lie,” and then she is Delilah.

Everything is intensely intimate: pieces of Florence are planted everywhere, in each corner, each pause, each power cry. This is the soul of Florence Welch, a woman who tattoos the ocean’s siren call to her breast, dances with the flames of her sins and  treks through the desert to find her salvation.

Compared to her other works, this one is strangely simple, although the dynamic of it is light-years more complicated than what other artists are producing.

“I’ve finally learned not to overcomplicate things,” Welch said during her interview with the Nottingham Post. “Which I love to do, in all aspects of my life. Just when things are clear and simple, I get scared and want to put on a cape and cover everything in glitter.”

She attempts to find comfort in saints and in storms, calling on St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes. She also compares herself to Jonah, a prophet who was in the belly of the beast as punishment because he didn’t want to follow God’s will.

The vehemence, confusion and heart wrenching pain that haunts Welch is partially caused by love, which is accurately depicted in the revolutionary “What Kind of Man?” music video.

She is in love with a man who is toxic and bluntly only desires a sexual relationship with her, leaving Welch to deal with the catastrophic nature of both of them. The song is in regards to her break up with a long-term boyfriend.

“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” refers to the Los Angeles skies, which “could be incredibly hopeful, and in some ways it can make you feel incredibly exposed,” Welch said in her interview with radio station KROQ. It was one of the first songs she wrote for the record.

Florence and the Machine is currently on tour, headlining festivals such as Governors Ball and Glastonbury on June 24 to 28. More dates have been added for the fall in the UK and Ireland.

Photo courtesy of user Jason Persse on Flickr.

headshotKarla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at

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