High As Hope sees Florence and the Machine develop and adopt a more mature, polished sound. They are less anxious of forcing catchy licks upon your ears. This time they let you discover the delights they have laid out on your own.
The guitar that provided the foundations for 2015’s ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,’ has been left in a box as piano and playful percussion takes centre stage. Backing vocals are also used to elevate Welch’s ethereal vocals through the choruses. Whilst delicate and innocent in the verses, as piano or string arrangements take precedence, the trademark joyful pop punches appear regularly enough.
Meanwhile ‘Hunger’ provides the stand-out strutting pop tune a Florence and the Machine record must have. The reduced instrumentation provides a deeper, more vivid sound, matching the richer nature of Florence’s lyrics. Violins and brass instruments are dropped in at various times which contribute to a recurring medieval sound that slides into modern pop regularly. It’s unforced and refreshing, twinkling at every step like a ballet dancer.
The euphoria previously carried by uplifting instrumentation is instead provided by Florence’s personal anecdotes this time round. Whilst at times it’s easy to become hypnotised by her stunning voice and absurd vocal range, the lyrics on ‘High As Hope,’ should not be underestimated.
Florence is direct in her delivery yet manages to wrap her tales in metaphors, still leaving a slight air of ambiguity, inviting you to work out the puzzle yourself. In latest single, ‘Big God’, Florence questions ‘is this just part of the process?’ as she ponders the modern concept of ghosting text messages and the feeling of being ignored.
Meanwhile ‘Grace,’ sees Welch serenade her sister, offering thanks for looking out for Florence as they grew up. If you dig deep however, and work out the puzzle Florence has laid before us you’ll discover she has woven a love letter into the record, directed to her home comforts.