Michelle Ratering / Uncategorized

Album Review: Florence + the Machine — Ceremonials (Michelle Ratering)

Florence + the Machine
Ceremonials
Island (2011)

If a list could be complied of indie-pop’s most vocally powerful women of the moment, one would consider including Adele, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden and Paramore’s Hayley Williams, who strays away from the indie-pop label but could probably can belt out a tune while curled in the fetal position. Even if one of these ladies’ inclusion was to be questioned, Florence Welch’s position as one of the most prominent singers on the indie-pop scene should be undisputed.

While Ceremonials is nothing like Lungs, the first album released by Florence + the Machine, Welch doesn’t leave her vocal prowess and lyrical complexity behind on her sophomore album.

Ceremonials is produced by Paul Epworth, who worked with Welch previously on some of the Lungs‘ tracks. While Lungs offered listeners a range of sounds, Ceremonials is more focused. Instead of including power pop vocals, punk guitar and jazzy interludes, Florence’s sophomore effort is looming and large, vocally dark and smooth. Each of her twelve tracks is an anthem, powerful and unique, crying out to the listener with a force of emotion nearly impossible to duplicate. Romantic themes twist into each song, leaving the album with an pensive, heavy feeling of love and loss.

While Florence + the Machine’s second album has a more consistent sound, it doesn’t mean that it’s boring. In fact, the cohesion between songs seems to hold together the essence of the album significantly more than the scattered Lungs.

“Shake It Out” opens with the hum of an organ, a trend developed through the entire album, and Welch’s ethereal words: “Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive your darkest moments.” The dissonance of the notes sounding behind the words are a stark beginning to the album, but before long, the song bursts into drum and vocal fueled “Florence” ecstasy. In spite of the ominous opening words, the song develops with hope, which seems impossible to avoid when Welch’s voice is blasting and the percussion is steering the song so strongly.

“What the Water Gave Me” was released as a single in October of this year. The track integrates a background chorus of male voices, in addition to a subtly incorporated organ, new features for Florence tracks. True to form, the track progresses through the incremental increase in drum volume and the power of Welch’s ethereal vocals. Welch stated that the song was a “song for the water” in an interview with a London radio station, a parallel that is drawn easily for a listener who allows their imagination to travel through lyrics freely.

In the middle of the album, the listener is treated with the jazzy piano opening of “Lover to Lover,” a soulful jam that pushes Welch’s vocal skills as she seems to hold an impossible note for an even more implausible amount of time.

“No Light, No Light” refocuses and pushes the album back towards the almost hymnal sound featured earlier in the album. Even with this adjustment, “No Light, No Light” is a blast back to Lungs when compared to the rich, smooth tracks featured earlier in Ceremonials.

Another gem on the album is “All This and Heaven Too.” Lyrically, “All This” is emotionally evocative, a trait that a Florence fan comes to expect. And, right as the focus seems as if it is going to be purely lyrical, Welch’s voice breaks through, proclaiming “I would give all this and heaven, too” with such fervor that all of the dark aura lingering from the previous ten tracks just seems to melt away. Welch’s ability to versatility utilize her voice is surreal, and she demonstrates this over and over again.

Welch is a brilliant front woman, supported by an obnoxiously talented group and production team. With Ceremonials, Florence + the Machine has avoided the sophomore slump, showing that their success isn’t luck. It’s talent.

8/10

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