For better or worse, British songstress Florence Welch has taken her music in a different direction on Florence + The Machine’s third studio effort “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” And while it’s hard to argue with the results — the album topped the charts in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada its first week of release — I miss the more theatrical elements that made 2009’s “Lungs” and (especially) 2011’s “Ceremonials” so terrific.
“I wanted to make something that was big but that had a gentleness to it,” Welch says of the new record. “I think that’s why we went back more to the live instruments. Something that was band-led almost.”
Though some of the trademark Welch bombast has been dialed back, there’s still plenty to like about “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” The one-two-three salvo of “Ship to Wreck,” “What Kind of Man” and the title track induces a few chills, and Florence + The Machine also score with personal favorite “Delilah,” “Caught” and “Mother.” A deluxe version of the record includes five bonus tracks, highlighted by “Make Up Your Mind” and a demo version of the title track. (Jeffrey Sisk)