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Florence + The Machine review: 'High as Hope' offers startling admissions from rock strongwoman

Florence + The Machine's new album is "High

Florence + The Machine's new album is "High as Hope." Credit: Republic Records

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE

"High as Hope"

BOTTOM LINE Revealing her vulnerabilities to grow even stronger.

Florence Welch doesn’t wait to speak her truth on the new Florence + the Machine album “High as Hope” (Republic).

“The show was ending and I had started to crack,” she sings to open the album with “June.” “Woke up in Chicago and the sky turned black. . . . I’m so high I can see an angel.”

She follows that with an even more direct admission. “At 17, I started to starve myself,” she reveals in the first single “Hunger.” “I thought that love was a kind of emptiness.”

They are startling admissions from one of rock’s strongest women — that she struggled with an eating disorder and with drinking too much to deal with her sudden stardom following the band’s 2009 debut “Lungs” and the hits “Dog Days Are Over” and “You’ve Got the Love.”

But the effect of the revelations is even more powerful. By making “Hunger” a catchy, universal anthem — “We all have a hunger,” she chants — Welch doesn’t just show that it’s a struggle that can be overcome but that everyone has their own struggles.

Throughout “High as Hope,” Florence + the Machine quietly gather strength as they move forward, with the help of Emile Haynie, who co-produced the album with Welch. They strip away extraneous flourishes and simply focus on delivering honest messages and musical beauty, reaching a stunning summit with the final three songs. In “100 Years,” Welch describes protests in steadfast, resolute terms. (“Try and fill us with your hate and we will shine a light and the days will become endless and never and never turn to night,” she promises.) In “The End of Love,” she creates a choir of Florences to capture the beauty that exists even in the end of a relationship. By pairing that with “No Choir,” a gorgeous, stripped-down celebration of “two people sitting doing nothing,” it becomes clear she has learned that being content can be beautiful, that we should all have high hopes for that.

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