Incredible. During the Australian leg of her High As Hope Tour, Florence + The Machine dropped two new tracks on us. Moderation, a high energy celebration of Florence's all or nothing truth, and Haunted House, a soft and sweet ballad to her heartache.
Moderation is too percussion heavy to flow evenly in High As Hope. It would have paired *Italian chef finger kiss* beautifully following Big God, but too jarring of a drop into Sky Full of Song. The overarching theme would have been interrupted. Moderation is perfect as a standalone track performed live.
Haunted House is the lone b-side to High As Hope, and similar to Moderation, wouldn't have fit among the 10 tracks. High As Hope ended on a celebration of domestic stillness, and Haunted House would have detracted from that beautiful conclusion.
Both songs are fantastic and are already classic Florence + The Machine songs. Give them a listen below.
There’s a line in Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry that zips around my head when I’m endlessly scrolling through my phone.
“I guess I won’t write poetry. I’ll just stare at my phone for fucking eternity.”
I check my phone constantly. Stopped at street lights, shopping at the grocery store, even when I’m downloading an Excel file. No small amount of time is free from staring at my screen.
I live alone, which means some days are quieter than others. I may not talk to another human being for a few days at a time. That’s when I crave interaction and fully lean in to my phone. It’s my source for communicating, meeting women, my income, and a million other things both important and inconsequential. I live inside my little iPhone 7. I bury myself in its glow instead of accepting how lonely this existence really is.
I’m addicted to my phone.
It’s my drug, igniting my frontal lobe with every notification. Collecting retweets. Swiping to meet my next great love. Strategically posting my best looking photos. It’s my favorite rush and my unhealthiest habit. I need to stop all of this.
But what does that mean for you?
Chances are you’re reading this on your phone. Maybe you’re having a similar problem, or you just want to improve your phone/life balance. Here are the five things I’m doing to try and beat my phone addiction that you can easily do too.
Vulnerability is challenging. It’s a rare event to become unguarded enough to broadcast our deepest flaws - occasionally in the company of a therapist, or in that first big test of a relationship. In Florence + the Machine's 4th studio album, High As Hope, Florence Welch sits you down to reveal her worst moments to you.
High As Hope shifts from the progression of her previous albums. Lungs was our introduction to Florence's bubbly ebbs and flows in the rapid-fire emotions of her early twenties. Ceremonials was the perfect sequel. It's her recognition of her path. She now understands life can be violent and suffocating, yet opportunities of love and happiness along the way balance out more arduous moments. How Big How Blue How Beautiful was the grandiose finale to her trilogy. Written in the wake of a breakup, the album is overproduced, and exists on a much larger scale than her previous work. While audibly magnificent, its slower tracks create jarring interruptions.
What initially makes High As Hope distinct is its tempered production. Stripped away is the magnificent orchestra of HBHBHB. What’s left are subtle hints of trumpets and kick drum undertones materializing sparingly throughout the album. The last track “No Choir” completely removes excess instrumentals unveiling total vulnerability.
Lyrically, Florence completed her boldest project yet. She's always been insightful in her lyrics. But High As Hope is much more than a peak into her mind. It’s the whole Florence experience. The good, the bad, and the struggles that challenge her public perception.
Florence opens up about her struggle with alcohol, her estranged relationship with her sister, and her darkest insecurities.
Such as this verse from “Big God." Florence slips into a mind-racing aggression after being ghosted. People never admit to not playing it cool after their crush doesn't text back. Florence does not. She wants this person to know exactly how she feels.
"You keep me up at night
To my messages, you do not reply
You know I still like you the most
The best of the best and the worst of the worst
Well, you can never know
The places that I go
I still like you the most
You'll always be my favourite ghost"
Depression is tricky. Some days you’re in a stable place. Other days a ghosting can drag your mental health into an inescapable Hell. This new cultural phenomenon has become standard practice and created an unhealthy expectation of accepting being treated poorly. Florence deserves enormous credit for her honesty about breaking down from something a lot of people are afraid to confess hurts them.
This is definitely her most ambitious album yet. Her previous installments are up for interpretation by design. They’re a combination of an outlet for her experiences and something audiences can figure out how they relate to. High as Hope is for the people that her actions have impacted the most. Maybe us as the audience can relate and maybe we can’t. That doesn’t matter. It’s an album that took a ton of bravery to create and that’s what should be applauded.
Our queen has returned! Florence + The Machine announced their first new album in three years, High as Hope, will be released June 29.
Following recent social posts teasing that a new track called Hunger would be gracing our lives on May 3, our prayers for a new Florence album were finally answered.
I wouldn't be a true Florence fan if I didn't include a note about A Sky Full of Song. That was actually the first new Florence music since Wish That You Were Here in 2016, which I wrote about when it came out. However, A Sky Full of Song was released on April 21 for the worldwide celebration of independent record stores known as Record Store Day. The release was rather mysterious since Florence was mum about any new album details just a few weeks ago. My guess is it'll probably be a B-Side on High As Hope, but it wouldn't surprise me if she kept it as a Record Store Day exclusive to support independent shops. Our queen is a supportive majesty.
Her first confirmed High As Hope song, Hunger, is out now and oh buddy is it a banger. This is her first true single since the How Big How Blue How Beautiful album in 2015. Hunger is about young women embracing what makes them vulnerable to change how they're accepted in this world. In an interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, Florence said:
"It’s also a celebration of how much I see young people changing things, like, “No, I wanna look this way.” They’re just so switched on and engaged and they’re not gonna be told how they should look and behave. I was really lost when I was a teenager, I was really confused and sad, so I feel really inspired by the young women I see today."
What makes Hunger work so well is it's the perfect song for where Florence is in her career. Her first album, Lungs, is great because it's a balance of breezy and emotional love songs. It's what you expect of a 23-year-old. Then Florence released her second album, Ceremonials. I have made it very well known, just look at my Bumble profile, that I truly believe Ceremonials is the greatest album of all time. Period. It's not up for debate. That is the most beautifully crafted piece of art I have ever listened to.
After a four year hiatus, Florence released HBHBHB. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a fine album, but it has to be impossible writing something equal to the perfection of Ceremonials. I think HBHBHB had potential with What Kind of Man and Ship to Wreck, but ultimately the album's flow was too jarring with unexpected slower tracks that killed all momentum.
Now Florence is back three years later and if Hunger is any indication, she may finally have the proper successor to Ceremonials. Hunger has an addicting energy that was missing in HBHBHB. The song is a celebration of shedding insecurity and finding the strength to love ourselves. It's balanced with Florence's beautiful vocals, contagious tap-a-long percussion, harpy strings, and lyrical empowerment. After Lungs and Ceremonials highs and HBHBHB lows, Hunger is the appetizer to what is sure to be an incredible album.
Summer 2018 is going to be a busy one for Florence. High as Hope drops June 29 and her first book, Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry is expected to be released July 10. The summer of Florence is almost here! She just needs to return to Chicago because Florence live would be the perfect capstone.
I am not a huge concert person. I go to maybe one or two shows every other year. They're just not my scene. I hate the crowds. I hate how loud it gets and I especially hate when there's more than one opening act. Nobody wants to get to a concert only to listen to D quality sound and a sloppy stage set up for more than twenty minutes. Get out of here with opening acts.
However, when I do want to go to a concert, it's for a band that I absolutely cherish. Such as the Florence + The Machine show I went to earlier this year. That was a perfect performance and I wish every concert I attend from here on out is just a Florence show. I got to sit down, her one opening act (Of Monsters and Men) didn't last very long and killed their set. Plus the entire thing wrapped up by 10 o'clock.
So when Bastille released their second album entitled Wild World back in September, I kept an eye out for concert dates. I enjoy this band so much and Wild World is just as good, possibly better if I'm in the right mood, than their first album Bad Blood. So I told myself that I needed to make it a priority to see the British band if they ever made it over to Chicago*.
Then came this past Monday. I got an alert on my phone that Bastille had announced a Chicago show at the Aragon Ballroom for April 3rd, 2017. I was beyond excited. Immediately I added to my calendar the earliest date that I could buy tickets as a reminder so I wouldn't miss out. I figured I would buy two tickets and just worry about who to take by April - that maybe I would be dating someone by then who likes Bastille as much as I do or at the least can tolerate me enough to humor my weird obsession with this band.
But like I said, I don't go to many concerts. I've never been to the Aragon. Your favorite author of a book about being a neurotic mess avoids certain places that trigger his anxiety. Places like standing room only concert venues. Those places are anxiety breading grounds for someone pushing thirty and with bad knees. Once I saw that the show was my nightmare of standing room only, I bellowed out an audible "goddammit" in my office at the decision I had in front of me.
Should I see one of the few artists that I let into my rotation that I really haven't changed since 2011 in a cramped, eardrum shattering room where I'll probably have just one beer then have to hold in my pee out of fear I'll lose my decent view of the stage or just sit at home where I'm comfortable and search Live Bastille on Youtube?
The last time I went to a standing room only concert was in 2009. I was twenty-one and borrowed my roommate's early 90's Thunderbird. I drove through country roads on bald tires to a cornfield encircled town outside of Rockford. My eternally favorite band, Thrice, was playing at an obscure dive bar. I bought my ticket months in advance and was literally first in line outside so I could get a great spot right up front. Once I was in, I had to stand through three opening acts that I didn't know and couldn't care less about. Then Thrice finally came out and I went ballistic. I belted out every lyric and completely lost myself in the show. However, being a dumb twenty-one-year-old at the time, I didn't think to bring ear protection and ended up with a roaring case of tinnitus for four days. After that I figured my days of standing room only shows had wrapped itself up with 96 hours of ear splitting, high-pitched ringing.
With all of that taken into account, I am so sorry, Bastille and future girlfriend that I was hoping to bring to the show. I wanted to go. I really did. I wanted to sing Way Beyond as loud as my terrible singing voice would go. However, I think that I am officially too old for standing room only. At this age and this level of crustiness, I need a comfortable chair, ear plugs and twenty minutes of an opening act tops.
Can't wait for Florence to come back to town.
*They were here earlier this year for Lollapalooza but that doesn't count because I'm too crotchety for outdoor music festivals.
As a diehard Florence and the Machine fan, I'm pretty embarrassed that Wish That You Were Here was available for download back in August and I'm just now getting to it in October. That's a big mistake on my part and won't happen again. However the movie, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, was released over the weekend and most people are just now hearing the song too. So I'll forgive myself.
I first heard Wish That You Were Here while driving back to my apartment from the grocery store. I was stuck in weird headspace that morning. That's because a dancing homeless man flicked me off and a commercial brainwashed me into buying pancake mix at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. Receiving an unprovoked middle finger that early in the morning and cruising the isles of Jewel when maybe 75% of the shoppers are still drunk can put you in a funk. So when I heard Florence's new song, it allowed me to slip out of that headspace and into an even stranger place - the place you go when a song conjures up vivid memories of a past relationship.
When I got home, I immediately downloaded it and blasted it on repeat - completely forgetting about being the middle finger to my face and the fact that I wasn't still in bed like a normal person. The great thing about this song is that it doesn't feel like it belongs to a movie soundtrack. That's because soundtracks are always terrible and shouldn't count as music. They're ads that are brimming with a nauseating amount of tackiness and branding. For God's sake the new Justin Timberlake song is literally called CAN'T STOP THE FEELING! (From DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls"). Kill me.
Wish That You Were Here actually sounds like a Florence and the Machine song. So much so that I was completely befuddled (that's definitely a word people still use) when I first heard it. I honestly thought she pulled a Beyoncé and dropped a secret album over night. There's actual substance in the lyrics and passion in her voice. This is enormously better than the mailed in soundtracks other artists usually dump on us. Is this the first time that a title track is way better than the actual movie it's from? I feel that she could slip this track into Ceremonials somewhere between Breaking Down and Lover to Lover and it would still flow perfectly.
Which brings me to a rather important side note, which is a hot take that I've been making for a few years now...
Ceremonials is one of the top 10 greatest albums of all time. It's unequivocally flawless and I will die on this hill defending it. To me, an album needs to have great flow. If its tracks are scattered randomly throughout the album, the whole thing will sound horrendous and be completely jarring. Just go back and listen to your mixtapes from junior high if you don't believe me. It needs to be able to transition from song to song smoothly and effortlessly. Not only does Ceremonials execute its transitions perfectly, but it combines lyrical brilliance with Florence's celestial voice into a generational masterpiece. If you're not convinced, listen to just one track, All This and Heaven Too, and tell me that it doesn't completely change your life.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.