English art rockers Florence and the Machine beat the third album jinx with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
The songs combine soul power propulsion and more than a hint of Gothic drama. Singer Florence Welch takes some of the Byronic edge of her previous work and hits it with choral effects and gutsy British soul.
Welch’s midrange pitched voice has the power to blow some doors off but it’s her expressive delivery that moves people. The band and producers Markus Dravs (Mumford and Sons, Coldplay) hook up to bear down on a set of songs that allow Welch to claim the space between operatic grandeur and moody rock ambiance.
Delilah takes off on an Annie Lennox-inspired soul drama that’s a high point of performance on an album of driven music. Although she often sounds like she’s singing from a rocky crag over a wind-whipped moor and cultivates an Arthurian appearance, Welch sings from a deep place that’s easily recognized. Ship To Wreck is a confessional blast of an anthem that sounds sincere – not an easy feat. There’s a soulful urgency that suggests the acceptance of singing personal songs. St Jude goes one further, sounding like something between a hymn and a prayer – an atmospheric contemplation.
The groove that’s a presence throughout How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful goes full force on Mother. Welch’s performance here starts restrained and keeps building, bringing in the choral textures that are layered through the recording.
They (Florence and the Machine) hone in on a wave length that brought the strongest elements of their earlier work down to this collection of songs – atmosphere, beat and vocals that burn.