Florence and the Machine
Ceremonials


4.5
superb

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (130 Reviews)
October 30th, 2011 | 51 replies | 7,102 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The sophomore we were all hoping for.

The annual NME Awards Tour is a pretty big deal in the UK, since it has an uncanny knack of showcasing the best up and coming artists in music just before their popularity balloons. The opening slot on the four-band bill is particularly notorious, having previously housed the likes of Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand, and back in 2008 - the year in which I first attended - the position was occupied by a madcap ginger who went by the name of Florence & The Machine. She'd already received a fair bit of hype, and gained unanimous approval from the half-filled room, but there's no way that I, nor anyone else who decided to come out early would have predicted Florence Welsh to blow up to such meteoric proportions. Yet blow up she did, and for someone who witnessed her perform before becoming a household name, her ascendancy has been a pleasure to behold. Debut album Lungs was awash with boldness and ambition, and those traits were thoroughly rewarded with sales in excess of four million, while a string of well received festival appearances, most notably at Glastonbury saw her stock raise even higher.

A hard act to follow then, but with Ceremonials, Florence has has produced an album which delivers in pretty much every way one could want of Lungs' successor. It probably won't hijack the radio waves in the way that its predecessor did, but it's the type of record which will be embraced with open arms by existing fans and has the power to convert the few remaining doubters. And yet things could have been so different. The temptation was there to adopt the blockbuster approach, and the singer was even encouraged by her label to head to the US to work with the producers behind Rihanna and Beyonce's mega-hits. However, in refusing to budge from her principles, Florence has produced an album which not only improves on her previous outing, but also ranks among the best released by anyone in a particularly fruitful musical year.

Adventure is something that Florence has never been accused of lacking, but even so the sheer scale of Ceremonials is staggering. Where the majority of Lungs packed a joyful yet direct punch, this record's songs are engulfed with lush textures and dynamic shifts which add tenfold to their density but without ever feeling overblown. Despite what many would have you believe, Florence isn't in fact a solo artist, and while she's the main creative force, it's her band, The Machine who turn that vision into reality in such style here. Whether it's the string arrangements of 'Breaking Down' or the tribal percussion of 'Heartlines,' not a single detail in this imaginative and diverse sound ever seems out of place, and even more importantly none of it ever threatens to overpower Florence's voice, the astounding instrument which takes it's rightful place at the forefront and never for a moment backs down. Comparisons to such hefty names as Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush have been fully justified from the start, but with Ceremonials Florence has exceeded practically everyones expectations in making a record which stands up to inspection against the best in either of those artists catalogues.

Despite being consistently excellent throughout the 12 song duration, this album's apex lies with a stunning succession of songs in it's first half. 'What The Water Gave Me' is perhaps the most impressive showcase of the singers' vocal range on the whole album, and along with 'Never Let Me Go' ranks as the most focused track on offer. As far as highlights go, though, it's hard to look past 'Shake It Out,' a lead single so good that it's difficult to imagine how one could assemble a song with more life and joy bursting from it's seams. It's the kind of uplifting and undeniably brilliant moment that few of us doubted Florence capable of, but not many would have predicted that leap to have come as early as her sophomore. The fact that she was expected to reach such heights does not, however, dilute what an achievement Ceremonials is. In fact if anything it makes it all the more satisying, and opens even greater possibilities as to how good she could get should she improve further.



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user ratings (547)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2011



7325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also posted at http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/

Streaming here http://prettymuchamazing.com/reviews/albumreviews/ceremonials/2

Highly recommended.

toxin.
October 30th 2011



12267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've always wanted to check out Lungs, but I really dislike "Dog Days are Over" so I'm not sure if I
should (or check this one out).
Awesome review though.
Some minor issues like:
"that it's predecessor did"

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2011



16134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review. Don't think this is quite as good as Lungs, but few albums are.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2011



7325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man, fixed that.

Definitely give the stream a listen, especially Shake It Out and What The Water Gave Me.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
October 30th 2011



10592 Comments


Brilliant work, Ali. Album is excellent.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2011



15801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Album is unbelievably good, I may bump my rating up in time. Solid review as per usual, Ali.

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

Waior
October 30th 2011



11451 Comments


I am so excited to hear this.

Ire
October 30th 2011



41753 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review. Don't think this is quite as good as Lungs, but few albums are.


this

psykonaut
October 30th 2011



3913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this > lungs
this > everything

dylantheairplane
October 30th 2011



2166 Comments


Seven Devils, holy crap

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2011



16134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, that's definitely one of the standout tracks.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2011



31072 Comments


i completely forget about release dates when things leak. I was convinced this wasn't due out so soon

Digging: Banks - Goddess

Xenophanes
Emeritus
October 30th 2011



10592 Comments


"i completely forget about release dates when things leak"

this

PayneTiger777
October 30th 2011



4388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I pre-ordered this on amazon. Definitely can't wait to experience this album.

Blindsided
October 30th 2011



1871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

AOTY.

ILJ
October 30th 2011



6658 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm listening to the 2 disk deluxe right now. So excited for this.

My first impression wasn't so great, but it's rapidly growing on me. Lungs was superb.

DrFraud
October 30th 2011



18 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Don't know if this will be my AOTY, but won't be surprised if it wins Grammy Album of the Year. I had high expectations and this crushed them, very good.

Eclectic
October 30th 2011



3302 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I've always wanted to check out Lungs, but I really dislike "Dog Days are Over"

If you hate that song then you'll struggle to enjoy most of this, and a lot of Lungs. Check out "Girl With One Eye" and see if you like that because 90% of her other stuff either sounds like "Dog Days Are Over" or isn't overly outstanding.

Which is why I'm not such a big fan of this. All of the tracks tend to blend together, there's no real variety.

ILJ
October 30th 2011



6658 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ I'm realizing this the more I listen. It feels like the same song with slight variations. It's good, but it doesn't seem to have the diversity that Lungs did. I'll have to give it several more listens though.

Knott-
Emeritus
October 31st 2011



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I dunno if I agree that we were all hoping for this. It's kind of like Steve Jobs' outlook on product conception; I didn't want this. I wanted another Lungs, until this got released, and then I realised I actually want this. I couldn't have imagined her doing something this... fluid, I guess. But it rules.



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