Ceremonials: CD Review

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Two years after the worldwide sensation that was Lungs, Florence + The Machine returns with their sophomore album Ceremonials. Ceremonials seems to be the enhanced version of Lungs. Everything about the album sounds bigger, sounds more grandiose.

The first thing I’d like to talk about is Florence Welch herself. Obviously, she is the core of the album. Ceremonials highlights the vocal work of the red-haired London native, as did the debut; however, this time around, she sounds more mature and more refined. Her vocals can be atmospheric and calm or incredibly strong. It is her ability to do both exceedingly well that makes her such a great singer. Not only does she hit the notes, but she does it with such great tone and such passion that rightfully she is set apart from most modern female singers.

The part of the album that isn’t Florence, I guess what you would call ” The Machine,” or the music behind her voice, is just as powerful as Florence. The music is very thick and layered. Each song off of Ceremonials is filled with pianos, guitars, stings drums, harps, bells, and other percussion. The more and more I listen to these songs, the more I find within them. And even with all that is going on, the songs never feel cluttered. Everything, including Florence’s singing, is put together in an almost symphonic manner.

The album starts off incredibly strong with the four tracks, “Only If For A Night,” “Shake It Out,” “What  The Water Gave Me,” and “Never Let Me Go” with the middle two being released before the album. From the moment I heard “What The Water Gave Me,” with it’s beautiful yet slightly haunting chorus I knew this album would be not only a step up in production for Florence, but in songwriting in general. “Only If For A Night” is a great opening track for Ceremonials. Like a lot of Florence’s songs, it starts out very ethereal and atmospheric but then something kicks in, and the song is just bursting with energy. Other notable songs off the album include the R&B influenced “Lover To Lover” and the enormous sounding “No Light No Light.”

The deluxe version of Ceremonials comes with three bonus tracks, two demos, and three acoustic versions of songs found on the standard edition of the album. The three bonus tracks are good, but whenever there are bonus tracks to an album it’s important to understand that those songs usually weren’t right or good enough for the actual album. I believe that Florence really can do no wrong, so, again, the tracks are good but they definitely aren’t necessary. I normally don’t think that demos are that great, because they obviously aren’t finished. Ceremonials includes a demo of “What The Water Gave Me” which I didn’t really enjoy, especially in comparison to the final track, and a demo of an unreleased song which was actually cool to hear. The deluxe version ends with three acoustic tracks, which I enjoyed. I’m always a sucker for acoustic tracks, so those became my favorite part of the deluxe version.

Ceremonials is bigger and better produced than Lungs. Every song on the album sounds huge. Although the band is Florence + The Machine, “The Machine” seems very organic and full of life. My only real problem with the album is that it seems front-heavy. All of the best songs are placed near the start of the album and, not that the later songs are bad by any means, but it definitely feels weaker than the first half. If you loved, or even just liked, Lungs I promise that you won’t be disappointed with Ceremonials. Florence is only growing bigger and with that, better.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars