Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

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Florence and the Machine took British music by storm with their mesmerising debut ‘Lungs’ in 2009. Back then, her powerful, haunting voice provided the perfect medium for the beautifully written melodies and lyrics which made that album my favourite of 2009. And now she’s back, with a second album with a daunting task on its head: how could it ever be as good as ‘Lungs’? She certainly hasn’t shied away from the challenge. The album starts strongly, with ‘Only If For A Night’ showcasing Welch’s vocal talents- undoubtedly the star of the F+TM show. The album’s pre-release singles, ‘Shake It Out’ and ‘What The Water Gave Me’ make up tracks two and three. These are traditional Florence singles, characterised by dramatic drums and catchy melodies- particularly ‘Water’, which builds up to a powerful crescendo which had me jumping in my seat.

The rest of the album takes a different tack though; as a whole, it is spookier, more haunting. The Halloween release date is no doubt a deliberate choice; however, I wonder whether the novelty will wear thin once the fake blood, fancy dress and pumpkins have been put away for another year.

What will never wear thin, though, is the sound of Welch’s voice. It seems to have matured slightly since ‘Lungs’; however, this seems to have led in some cases to less accessible melodies which pass over the listener’s head with a ‘crikey, she can sing’ rather than sticking in the mind with a ‘blimey, what a song’.

There are undoubtedly some great songs on this album,though; while songs with titles like ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Breaking Down’ are never going to be as original in their lyrics as the masterpieces of originality found on ‘Lungs’, they do stick in the mind with great melodies and that voice. She definitely hasn’t lost her ability in writing either, even if there is slightly less variety in mood on this album than on ‘Lungs’; she pulls off the spookier overall tone with aplomb, even if I did find myself missing the rapid mood swings between songs like ‘Kiss With A Fist’ and ‘Between Two Lungs’ from album number one.

‘Ceremonials’ was always going to be an album with mammoth expectations on its head. That it in at least some ways matches up to the masterpiece that was (and is) ‘Lungs’ is impressive; even if it doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor, it deserves a wholehearted recommendation for what it is in itself. If you’ve heard ‘Lungs’, you’ll enjoy ‘Ceremonials’. If you haven’t, you’ll probably enjoy it even more.

- Edward Cooke

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