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Sound Check

6/10/2015

Florence + The MachineFlorence and the Machine
“How Big How Blue How Beautiful”
Island

Florence Welch has made a point to let everyone know how stripped-down her newest album is. It is curious, then, that the first single from the album would be “What Kind of Man,” featuring a 36-piece orchestra backing Welch’s trademark booming vocals. To be sure, “How Big How Blue…” does pump the brakes in spots and offer a more subdued version of Welch. “St Jude” is a haunting ballad with practically no instrumentals getting between the listener and Welch’s voice. But those moments are the exception rather than the rule. And yet, in making the effort to offer up something more subdued, Welch has taken a lot of the steam out of her Machine. Nothing on “How Big How Blue…” ever hits with the same force of previous singles like “Dog Days,” and the result is a rather middling album that never gets where it wants to go. CV

 

Willie Nelson & Merle HaggardWillie and Merle
“Django and Jimmie”
Legacy

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, trite as it might be to say, have nothing left to prove. They are as big of legends as music is likely to ever have, and yet they never seem content to be remembered for the things they used to do. “Django and Jimmie” — the title is a reference to Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers, whom both men claim as influences — would be easy to write off as a simple vanity project. Instead, Nelson and Haggard force you to pay attention through a series of ballads that show how well both men can craft a tune. “It’s All Going to Pot” is the album’s political center, but the best track on the album may be “Missing ol’ Johnny Cash,” with its line about how “lovin’ life was his greatest sin.” CV

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