POP/ROCK

Florence + the Machine, “High as Hope” (Republic Records)

“High as Hope” could be seen as Florence Welch’s quarter-life crisis album. The Florence + the Machine frontwoman has had some ups and downs in the decade since breaking out in 2009 with the debut album “Lungs.” There have been three U.K. chart-topping albums and an acclaimed headlining set at Glastonbury, but also detours into drink and self-doubt. On “High as Hope,” Welch picks over the traces of her sometimes misspent youth and looks ahead with tentative hope. Lyrically, it’s a delight: reflective, wry and rueful. Musically, it retains the extravagance Welch’s fans love: big hooks embedded in a wall of sound. Produced chiefly by Welch and Emile Haynie, with contributions from musicians including Sampha, Jamie xx and Tobias Jesso Jr., “High as Hope” cushions Welch’s raw and soaring vocals on a lush bed sound — keyboards, strings, drums, handclaps, the works.

Jill Lawless, Associated Press

 

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels Featuring Lucinda Williams, “Vanished Gardens”

(Blue Note)

The collaboration between tenor saxophonist Lloyd — at 80, one of jazz’s elder statesmen — and singer-songwriter Williams is less unlikely than it might seem. Both have recently worked with guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel player Greg Leisz, and last year, Williams joined Lloyd on a cover of Dylan’s “Masters of War.”

Williams appears on half of the 10 tracks here, her cracked drawl buoyed by the liquid tones of the guitars and in conversation with Lloyd’s often lyrical sax. She’s not a jazz singer here; on “Unsuffer Me,” “Ventura” and “Dust” she follows the melodies of the original versions on her albums, although she pulls back between verses for Lloyd or Frisell to take the lead. Best of all is a new Williams composition, the gospel-blues protest song “We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around.” The tracks without Williams are excellent, too, from the meditative “Defiant” to the subtly jaunty “Blues for Langston and Larue.”

STEVE KLINGE, Philadelphia Inquirer

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