Florence + The Machine, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Barenaked Ladies and More Music Reviews

Get the details of what you should be listening to this weekend.

ByAllan Raible
June 06, 2015, 8:48 AM
PHOTO: Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine perfoms onstage during the iHeartRadio LIVE performance and Q&A with Florence And The Machine on June 3, 2015 in New York City.
Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine perfoms onstage during the iHeartRadio LIVE performance and Q&A with Florence And The Machine on June 3, 2015 in New York City.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for iHeart Media

— -- intro: This week is pretty busy. Florence + The Machine release another spellbinding album, pop and R&B sensation Jason Derulo goes further into the retro-eighties realm, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard team up for a collection of duets, the xx’s Jamie xx sort of goes solo, the Barenaked Ladies release album number 13, Ben Lee celebrates twenty years in the business by releasing a collection of low-key pop-rock and Indigo Girls show some impressive range. Musically speaking, June is off to an excellent start.

quicklist: 1title: Florence + The Machine’s “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful “ (Deluxe) ****1/2text: Florence Welch’s third Florence + The Machine record turns up the guitars and turns down the orchestration in comparison to her past work and yet it still maintains her signature sense of dramatic mysticism. When I say it turns up the guitars, these songs still don’t have the raw, punk-driven pounce of “Kiss With A Fist,” the obvious sonic outlier from her debut, ”Lungs,” but songs like “What Kind Of Man” and “Ship To Wreck” are much closer to the rock world than they are to current pop. This is also Florence’s most soulful-sounding record to date, with a lot of stomping, pseudo R&B numbers. In effect Florence comes off as someone who holds PJ Harvey and Annie Lennox in equal regard.

Her 2011 album “Ceremonials” was an incredible record and this album follows up that modern masterpiece with an equal amount of skill on display. Much of that previous record was full of boomers like “Shake It Out” and “Heartlines.” This time around, Florence shows more range, as her voice routinely goes from a whisper to a shout. During this round, she is slightly more nuanced in her attack.

There is a quiet, subtly beautiful ambiance to “St. Jude,” while “Mother” becomes a funky rocker. Bonus track “Hiding” is a hand-clapping bit of eighties pop and “Delilah” is the kind of builder that has become Florence’s signature, peppered with some post-Motown pep.

Welch has proven herself to be a consistent leader, delivering three enveloping, entrancing records in a row. Like “Ceremonials,” “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is issued in its deluxe form with extra tracks including a couple choice demos. This strategy worked before and it works again because it gives the work on the whole a more complete context. Florence + The Machine once again has delivered another future classic. This is music that will no doubt prove itself to be timeless. Florence is a key example once again proving that sometimes intelligent, well-made records do crossover to the pop charts.

Focus Tracks:

“Ship To Wreck” Were you expecting a harp? Maybe a swirling piano? This album begins with an upbeat, acoustic guitar-driven rock song. This maintains many of Florence’s key signatures, but this also awakens senses of both urgency and maturity.

“What Kind Of Man” This begins with a warped intro that is reminiscent of The Knife. Then, out of nowhere, a hard-edged riff comes in and throws you for a loop. Then the bass and drums kick in and Florence is in full-on authoritative mode. The bottom line is that it all works quite well.

“Mother” According to the liner-notes, this is the final track of the standard album. Again, it is another song where the guitars are up front, anchored by a sweet bass and drum combination that brings to mind the hypnotic electro chill of Air’s 1998 masterpiece, “Moon Safari.” Then, everything gets blown up by a hard-rocking chorus and as the song progresses, it ends with some potent acid-rock guitar fuzz.

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