Florence Welch’s music has always been as large and chaotic as her personality. She pours every ounce of energy into her music and live performances. From the rambunctious folk pop of her first album with band Florence + The Machine, Lungs, the giant orchestral arrangements of sophomore Ceremonials to the crashing alt rock of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Her sound is simultaneously angelic, and war torn. A battle that has understandingly taken a toll on Florence. Though through the highs and lows, she has always maintained as one of the consistently enthralling performers in the music industry. On High As Hope, Florence shows a very raw emotional reflection on her life.

On previous albums, Florence has often opted to pair her voice with theatrical production. However, there has always been signs of a more subtle but complex approach waiting in the wings. If you listen to some of the demo tracks on Ceremonials and How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful there is hints towards a much quieter refrained sound. Like the demo for ‘Third Eye,’ which on the album is as huge and catchy as most of Florence’s back catalogue. The demo version shows the song in a completely different light, with rhythmic humming chants and layered vocals over a very simplistic but haunting backing track. This lowkey style may not contain the usual plethora of instrumentation that creates Florence’s signature sound, but it’s quiet beauty is perhaps more effective. That style comes through even more on High as Hope as there were very little changes from the demos and Florence for the first time gives herself a co-production credit.

Without losing any of the energy and power of a Florence + The Machine album, High as Hope is Welch’s most personal and intimate work. Though it contains collaborative efforts from Kamasi Washington and Jamie xx, every element of the album feels completely in service to Florence’s voice. Washington and Jamie's contribution to the song ‘Big God’ is subtle, but still felt. The song is as minimalist as Florence has gotten on a track. The crux of it being a driving repeated vocal line, that slowly builds with a slow beating drum, adding flourishes of saxophone and synth as it reaches its climax. Though a peaceful song in the context of Florence’s discography, it still has a ferocity to it.

The album’s spirit is in the way Florence grounds herself. She is often positioned as grand figure among religious and fantastically lyrical imagery. High as Hope feels like a calm after the storm, a realization that the most meaningful moments in life can be the quiet and even uneventful ones. This is detailed gorgeously in the album’s closer ‘No Choir’ in which Florence details that she has found happiness in the mundanity of her world, not in the chaos that show business and stardom has thrust her into. This notion is compared to imagery of the absence of a choir, a musical staple of Florence’s previous work. An idea that is legitimized by the album itself, which rarely uses a chorus or big band instrumentation. Any harmonizing vocals on the track are Florence’s own.

At the core of the album is honesty. Though Florence gives herself entirely to her music and her live performances, often flinging herself about the stage wildly and even breaking her foot at her 2015 Coachella show, on High as Hope she opens up further. This was seen on the second single ‘Hunger’ which details Florence’s pursuit of Happiness in drugs, eating disorders and even on stage. Coming to the conclusion that all gave fleeting or hollow versions of Love. It speaks to a universal feeling of emptiness and ways we all try to fill a hole in ourselves. Elsewhere on the album Florence dedicates a song to her sister as an apology for her inability to be a mentor figure, the song communicates such a genuine form of family love, something that could come across as cheesy coming from any other singer’s mouth. It is dealt with the upmost sincerity and the end result is a gorgeous piano ballad.

The album does have its moments of Florence’s trademark stadium anthems. Like the frantic ‘100 Years’ which starts with slow crawling refrained vocal over a simple piano tune, but quickly building into bombastic drumming and clapping and perhaps one of Welch’s best sung performances on the album. Ending in a cathartic chant, it feels as though there is still some untamed wild energy still bubbling under the surface of the album and Florence lets it all go on this track.

High as Hope is not full of catchy pop folk, giant choruses and the usual euphoric joy found from listening to a Florence + The Machine album, nor shall it shake the heavens and Earth. But, that is ultimately the strength of it, it finds beauty in complex subtly allowing Florence’s vocals and by extension her personality to shine through more than it has before (Which is saying a lot.) It is a (relatively speaking) stripped back effort that brings Florence grounded firmly to the earth and perhaps is her greatest achievement to date.