Following 2015’s underwhelming How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, its follow-up, High As Hope, is a welcome return to form. The fourth album from Florence + The Machine is packed with the powerful vocal deliveries and songwriting that made Florence Welch a household name.
Openers June and lead single Hunger are the best songs she’s written in years, with the unifying refrains, “Hold on to each other”, and “We all have a hunger” creating a communal sense underneath the bombastic and sweeping orchestrations and choir.
Big God takes it a step further, with a gothic piano line backing Welch’s most operatic vocal performance, while The End Of Love feels like a movie soundtrack written by Kate Bush, with beautiful, elongated strings, stark piano chords, and the immersive chorus, “Let the river rush in, not wash away, wash away”.
Although many songs hark back to 2009’s Lungs or 2011’s Ceremonials, there is certainly a growth here, particularly with the folk influence popping up in songs like Sky Full Of Song, Patricia and closer No Choir, all which start a cappella, before naturally growing into heavily-textured orchestral layers.
Grace is a particular highlight, as Welch slides between incredibly tender, honest lyrics and soaring choruses, showing her full dynamic range, and 100 Years proves a great protest song, likely inspired by the women’s rights movement, backed by stomping, tribal drums as she bellows, “We don’t need to fight, we raise our voices and let our hearts take flight!”
On High As Hope, the machine is back to its best, and Flo has found her voice again.