Album Watch: Florence + the Machine's 'Strangeness and Charm'

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Was Lungs beginner's luck for Florence + The Machine? Maybe, but Ceremonials is set to prove that wrong. Bordering a fine line between 'difficult second album' and 'robust growth', Florence Welch and crew have created yet another stunner of brooding melancholia. From the engulfing opener, the haunting "If Only For a Night", Ceremonials plunges head first into Gothic terrain that seems to flutter off the pages of a 19th Century Gothic romance novel. Tales of ghosts, mermaids, and the trials of the bemoaning and unsettling heart, are just a few of the fairy tales woven.

Over-the-top Ceremonials can be and at fifteen tracks, tedium can settle in. An overwhelm of tribal drums here and heavy-handed romance confessionals there make it an album that takes more than one digest to fully be immersed in the rich material presented. For some it may be a bit too arty, and for others, it can seem a bit overwhelming.

The lead-off singles, "What The Water Gave Me" and "Shake It Out" manage to capture the spirit of Lungs, but expands it's robust conviction mirroring the bold moves done by acts like Tears For Fears, Enya, and yes, the obvious---Kate Bush. This is all Welch's show, as her voice transcends and is even more cerebral than before. When she plows through "All This And Heaven Too" and the thunder wonders of "Heartlines" and "Spectrum", things really shake the stained glass windows of this cathedral of sound.

Artistically, Ceremonials plays up it's soulful qualities as Gospel undertones are a plenty. It's safe to sort of dub Miss Welch a rock n' soul vocalist on the rise, especially when you hear "Love To Lover" which Welch slips into perfect company with another British powerhouse---um, you know of her, oh, some girl named Adele (!). Interesting enough Adele's 21 producer, Paul Epworth is responsible for the production duties here, and the results are just as stirring. With Florence Welch battling through the sound storm and coming out a true winner, Ceremonials gets over that 'second album hump' while still managing to bring quite a rush to the listener in all of it's 'strangeness and charm'.

If Only For A Night 

Lover To Lover

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