REVIEW: Florence And The Machine – “Ceremonials”

Florence And The Machine / Ceremonials / Universal

Even up til’ now, it’s hard to say what Florence And The Machine is. Is it the stage name given to Florence Welch – a British vocalist with a roar that can make an infuriated lion cower. Is it the moniker for the whole group? Or is it a twisted joke used to acknowledge both? An answer is far from visible unlike Florence And The Machine’s attachment to rich arrangements, as Ceremonials colorfully boasts, where verses grow with a delicate type of strength before they explode with a climactic thud. Even on a sophomore record, Welch is still striking and forthright, what with “What The Water Gave Me” being ominous as it is startling and “Never Let Me Go” baring an 80s’ ballad tempo that could only intensify her voice. Thanks to the 12 recordings, Ceremonials is what a second studio attempt should be. It’s never restricted or shy and follows Florence And The Machine’s intentions to ignore the structure of pop music by bending it’s elements and forcing them to open up with a bit more distinction.

On “Lover To Lover”, piano keys steer a burst of soul about finding comfort in acceptance. “Only If For Night” shakes with strings and choir vocals whereas “No Light, No Light” builds momentum, pushing Welch to be typical and exquisitely holler to a drum beat, something brought over from Lungs but feels more robust now that we’ve become familiar with it. Therein also lies the songwriting that’s hard not to adore or curl up with, letting it’s unspeakable honesty act as a voice for our emotions, issues and secrets. Lines like “No light in your bright blue eyes / I never knew daylight could be so violent,” and “I am done with my graceless heart / So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart,” (“Shake It Out”) reinforce this and do it that much more effectively thanks to Welch’s voice. It’s refined with her howl being more powerful every time it tries to carry an accelerated melody (“Heartlines”) or step into that dark, melancholic territory there’s been a focus on for quite some time.

It is unfortunate that Ceremonials – an album that never ceases to choke out your attention and keep you on edge – can make one winded due to its length. That characteristic makes it less commercial but similar to its predecessor; Florence And The Machine built its popularity through quiet eruptions and the human nature that glows from topics of struggle, loss and feeling inanimate. It’s not a pop standard, it’s an artistic thrust. When you paint an image with a brush, you’re not painting to feel liked or to fit in; you’re subconsciously using emotions carved from the deep wounds inside to guide you. And for Florence And The Machine, their portrait or piece of art is slowly taking shape.

Download: “No Light, No Light”, “Leave My Body”, “Only If For A Night”

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