Music Review: Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials

Copyright Island Records

Florence + the Machine is a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Following the release of their 2009 album debut Lungs, their second studio release Ceremonials showcases lead singer Florence Welch’s booming yet powerful voice, backed by a multitude of harps, pianos, and beating drums.

The UK indie-alternative band reunited with producer Paul Epworth, who has recently worked with artists like Adele and Cee Lo Green, to help create the sound of the new album. The overall sound and feel of Ceremonials is definitely much darker than that of Lungs. The album takes on a certain gothic pop sound, especially in songs like the lead single “What The Water Gave Me,” where Welch sings of drowning in the sea over the dramatic sounds of pounding drums and a sharp piano.

Her voice is showcased to the best of her ability all throughout the album; bellowing out the highest note and chanting along to a catchy chorus on one song, and then on the next whispering the lyrics in the most haunting manner. Overall Welch’s vocal power on the album is absolutely stunning, although it can get the slightest bit repetitive; one can only take so much wailing before it can become overdone, or the songs just seem too similar.

Ceremonials consists of 12 tracks, with the deluxe version containing three extra songs and a demo version of “What The Water Gave Me.” The album is cohesive, with each track flowing smoothly into the next while still maintaining that dark, ethereal feel. From the first track, “Only If For A Night,” which features some enchanting harps while Welch howls out the lyrics, to the last song, “Leave My Body,” Florence + the Machine manages to keep the overall sound of the album consistent while still bringing the drama and epicness needed to produce a hit record.

“What The Water Gave Me” combines the perfect blend of serenity and heaviness an artist can bring while singing of suicide by drowning, “So lay me down/Let the only sound be the overflow/Pockets full of stones/Lay me down.” The single perfectly represents the album, showing off the use of harps and guitars featured so often in most of the songs.

The follow up single, “Shake It Out,” is definitely the hit that “Dog Days Are Over” was for their previous album. The song is one of the more pop-oriented tracks of the album, built upon a booming drum and an explosive chorus with Welch proclaiming, “And its hard to dance with a devil on your back/So shake it off!” In short, this song is huge, and is most certainly a Florence + the Machine classic.

There are other great tracks on the album that fans of the band will love. Songs like the slow but mesmerizing “Never Let Me Go;” “Seven Devils,” which is the most haunting track on the album that purely embodies the gothic sound that the album puts forth; the upbeat and steady “Breaking Down;” and another golden track off the album “No Light, No Light.” This track in particular is produced and recorded perfectly, starting off slow and ethereal until the explosive chorus comes in, which consists of the usual booming drums and harps led by Welch’s own powerful voice. Songs like this are what Florence + the Machine has mastered; tracks that feature a slow build up and then a huge, catchy chorus. The album ends just as it should, with a bang. The last song, “Leave My Body,” features the drama brought throughout the entire album while Welch sings out during the chorus, “I’m gonna leave my body/gonna lose my mind,” as she is supported by a powerful choir.

Florence + the Machine’s sophomore album, Ceremonials, shows no sign of a slump for the band. Each song has its own personal meaning and the album as a whole flows smoothly. With an overall darker atmosphere and sound, and lyrics as moody as any teenager, Florence + the Machine created an album that shows progression from their debut album, Lungs, and proves that we’ll be hearing more great things from them in the future.

Rating: 4/5

Track Listing:

1. Only If For A Night

2. Shake It Out

3. What The Water Gave Me

4. Never Let Me Go

5. Breaking Down

6. Lover To Lover

7. No Light, No Light

8. Seven Devils

9. Heartlines

10. Spectrum

11. All This And Heaven Too

12. Leave My Body

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