Album Review: Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials

By on Monday, 31st October 2011 at 12:00 pm

The Florence and the Machine sophomore effort ‘Ceremonials’ (the 2011 follow-up to ‘Lungs’, Florence Welch’s 2009 and 2010 Brit Award winning album), Welch promised “more dark, more heavy, bigger drum sounds”. She has made good on her promise. There is a welcomed heaviness to the album, which is awash in driving bass and drums. And yet, there has been a definite progression. On hearing the new sound, it is immediately apparent who Welch has been working with: her producer Paul Epworth, who cowrote several songs on Adele’s 2011 ‘21’, has definitely helped Welch craft her new ‘soulful’ sound. Tracks like ‘Lover to Lover’ and ‘Shake It Out’ strike me as almost excessively Adele-like. This is not to say it is a bad move, simply a bit less of the original dark mystic music of ‘Lungs’.

Having said that, I can just hear opening track ‘Only If for a Night’ reverberating through a stadium. This is a feat I know Welch is up to because I have seen her do it when she supported U2 in America, belting out her best to 80,000 people. This track pounds through your head like the Flo you know and love. To my mind, she has opened the album with the strongest track. The second official single is to be ‘No Light No Light’ – a huge song – with a “weird drone-y bass sound” at the beginning that is in fact a recording of the sounds her tour bus made in Amsterdam. The arrangement calls to mind the image of a church, a reflection of the album’s title. And ‘Seven Devils’ retains the Kate Bush pedigree that drew me to Florence and the Machine in the first place. It’s squealing strings, insistent drums and swirling chorus puts a little spook back into album’s the soulfulness.

As a whole, ‘Ceremonials’ still evokes image of the diaphanous gowns that float over Welch’s frame as she takes her soaring vocals up and over where they’ve gone before: beautiful, stirring and a bit frightening. Welch was offered the opportunity to work with ‘American pop’ producers, but she felt she couldn’t leave behind the essence of what creates ‘Lungs’. Luckily, much of that strength and power remains. I never fault an artist for growth or changing their approach or sound, but it doesn’t mean I will necessary like it. So don’t get me wrong, ‘Ceremonials’ is a huge album. It is full of great songs that swell with Welch’s amazing voice and haunting lyrics. I do, however, prefer her previous offering.


‘Ceremonials’, the sophomore album from Florence and the Machine, is out today in regular and deluxe (2 CD) versions on Island.

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2 Responses

9:41 pm
6th November 2011

I agree with this being an album fit for the stadiums, and she certainly delivered on her promise of “more dark, more heavy, bigger drum sounds”. Great album!

[…] hate to compare Tonra’s voice to Florence Welch, but it’s there, pre-‘Ceremonials’ when Welch was more about the music and less about the power and production. A better comparison […]

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