To make fourth album ‘High As Hope’, Florence Welch headed home. Crafting the first stages of the record in her house in Peckham, she cycled every day into the South London hotspot’s creative hub, the Bussey Building, to - as she put it - “bang on the wall with sticks”. It was then taken to Los Angeles, given a lick of paint and gathered contributions from friends such as Sampha, Kamasi Washington and Jamie xx, but it’s this nucleus of the record, formed back home, that gives it its identity: ‘High As Hope’ is a record that relies on comfort, togetherness and familiarity in an increasingly alien and cold world.
From opener ‘June’, where she sings of “those heavy days in June, when love became an act of defiance” to the straight-to-the-point ‘South London Forever’, which recalls hanging out “with the art students and the boys in bands / high on E and holding hands with someone that I just met”, ‘High As Hope’ presents Florence as an artist determined to form an iron-strong connection.
The album still brings clout in terms of fitting into arena-size shows and festival headline sets; single ‘Hunger’ - a search for happiness and clarity set over the singer’s pummelling voice and rollocking percussion - is huge, and ‘100 Years’ just as bombastic, but ‘High As Hope’’s greatest power comes from its quietest, most reflective moments.
‘Sky Full Of Song’ is the record’s highlight. “Grab me by my ankles, I’ve been flying for too long,” she sings, casting aside escapism in search of a more tangible sense of change, with instruments stripped back to allow the words to pierce through even more clearly. It sits right at the record’s heart, just before ‘Grace’, a letter to Florence’s sister.
“I’m sorry I ruined your birthday / I guess I could go back to university, try and make my mother proud,” she sings, before lamenting her own lack of discipline: “I don’t think it would be too long before I was drunk in Camberwell again.” By bringing things closer to home, Florence forges a deeper connection than ever before. ‘High as Hope’ is an album that takes solace in those closest to her, works to right previous wrongs, and sees her come out the other side a whole lot stronger.