One of this year’s most eagerly awaited albums sees the return of Florence and the Machine after over two years of waiting. ‘Ceremonials’ is tasked with tackling ‘difficult second album syndrome’. It is made an even more difficult task when you consider the strength of Lungs which was lauded critically and commercially.
The album kicks off in Trademark Florence fashion with ‘Only If For a Night’, as she starts off with town bells before seamlessly segueing into the delicate vocals before the drums kick her into life and she blares out at the top of her lungs with the echo of the backing vocals, polluting your ears simultaneously.
Lyrically the song doesn’t do anything to bamboozle and amaze you, something that Florence has developed a penchant for. It features similar motifs of ghosts and what not. The foot stomping crescendo signs off the opener in typical Florence style, full of energy.
‘Lover to Lover’, is a nice surprise as it opens up with a Motown-esque piano and jingle combination before Florence sprinkles her vocal magic over it and the production of Paul Epworth gives the song its energetic crowded feel. Florence strains louder throughout this album than Lungs.
‘No Light No Light’, starts off with an organ before the fingers run down the harp and the tension is released and the layers of instruments join in cohesion to Florence’s vocals. Lyrically this is on the button as Florence intertwines themes and motifs to deliver her message.
Florence switches tact on ‘Seven Devils’, as she slows the pace with the burden drums and methodical howls with her hallow vocals to deliver her religion themed sermon, haunting with the crashing cymbals. ‘Seven Devils’ may suggest that the back end of the album is a dark affair, but that isn’t the case.
‘Heartlines’ picks up the pace and the mood, as the world is transformed into a jungle heaving to the sound of the ever ethereal Florence. She relies less on the bombastic high end of her range and finds a nice happy medium and allows the song to organically manifest.
‘Spectrum’ showcases why Florence is leagues ahead of many of her contemporaries. Playing with the theme of diamonds and relating it to the human experience. She brings in other elements and twists and turns before wrapping it in a cocoon of otherworldly instrumentation.
Aside from the two singles ‘What The Water Gave Me’ and ‘Shake It Out’ the album is a slow starter. The second half really picks up though and with that the assuredness is back with real bombast. The album doesn’t just re-tread ground covered by ‘Lungs’. Instead ‘Ceremonials’ takes an adjacent path to ‘Lungs’ retaining what was good whilst looking to build.
The only thing missing is a real ‘Cosmic Love’ throat grabbing moment. But aside from that and the slow start. This is a sterling effort that ensures Florence retains her crown as queen of contemporary pop, but having said that Kate Bush’s new album ‘50 Words For Snow’ is due on November 21.