After taking a few years to herself, Florence Welch has restarted Florence and the Machine and will return with a new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, on June 2nd. Welch wrote and recorded the album’s 11 tracks last year with producer Markus Dravs.
Earlier this week, Welch shared the LP’s dreamy, orchestral title cut with a video of her dancing with a clone of herself. Now the group is releasing the record’s first official single, “What Kind of Man,” with a video directed by Vincent Haycock and choreography by Ryan Heffington.
The tune builds slowly, as Welch sings to a wishy-washy man who hasn’t figured out his life, but whose kiss “inspired a fire of devotion.” It then breaks into heavy, tambourine-shaking bass-drum backbeat, as Welch sings, “What kind of man loves like this?” and complains about being strung on by her indecisive beau. The track builds to a densely textured, soulful, brass-heavy pop song. Welch wrote the tune with Kip Harpoon, a songwriter she collaborated with on 2011’s Ceremonials and the hit “Shake It Out.”
Welch said in a statement that she carefully selected Dravs to produce because she loved his work on Björk’s Homogenic (“a huge record for me”), and she liked the way he balances electronic and organic instruments. “He’s good with big sounds, and I like big sounds,” she said, adding that she wanted to highlight a brass section on the record. Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory arranged the brass sections.
“With Markus, I wanted to make something that was big but that had a gentleness to it, that had a warmth, that was rooted,” she said. “I think that’s why we went back more to the live instruments. Something that was band-led almost.”
One of the more notable aspects of “How Big How Blue How Beautiful,” a collaboration with Isa Summers and the first tune Welch wrote for the record, is its horn arrangement. “The trumpets at the end of that song —that’s what love feels like to me: an endless brass section that goes off into space,” Welch said. “And it takes you with it. You’re so up there. And that’s what music feels like to me. You want it just to pour out endlessly, and it’s the most amazing feeling.”
Welch also worked with producer Paul Epworth, who worked on Ceremonials, on the album-closing blues track “Mother.”
Florence and the Machine will return to the stage more frequently this year, with appearances scheduled at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Governors Ball. Her busy schedule, which includes a number of dates in Europe, is a sharp contrast to the last couple of years.
Following extensive touring and Ceremonials promotion in 2012, as well as putting out an MTV Unplugged album, the group has been sparing in public activity. In 2013, the band offered “Over the Love” to the Great Gatsby soundtrack. That same year, it also played the Sound of Change charity concert, which also featured Beyoncé and Madonna, and Welch made a solo appearance on the A$AP Rocky song “I Come Apart.” Last year, the group participated in Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit concert.
Last June, the band performed at a fundraiser in London, where Welch said she was working on new music, according to NME. “This is what I do — I’m not hiding in a studio 24 hours a day,” Welch said. “It feels good.”
“It was sort of a crash landing,” Welch said of her time off. “I guess although I’ve always dealt in fantasy and metaphor when I came to writing, that meant the songs this time were dealing much more in reality. Ceremonials was so fixated on death and water, and the idea of escape or transcendence through death, but the new album became about trying to learn how to live, and how to love in the world rather than trying to escape from it, which is frightening because I’m not hiding behind anything but it felt like something I had to do.”
How Big How Blue How Beautiful will be released on June 2nd, but is available for pre-order.
How Big How Blue How Beautiful Track List:
1. “Ship to Wreck”
2. “What Kind of Man”
3. “How Big How Blue How Beautiful”
4. “Queen of Peace”
5. “Various Storms and Saints”
7. “Long and Lost”
9. “Third Eye”
10. “St Jude”