By TYLER ROSS
When Florence Welch released her debut album, Lungs, in 2009, it blew up. With the help of the BBC, who highlighted the album as part of BBC Introducing, and the ever-helpful Apple spot of “Dog Days Are Over,” Lungs shot to the top of the UK charts. I was reluctant to give the album a try, shying away from the popularity of “Dog Days.” When I finally did listen, I found a varied, yet consistently jubilant album. There were crashing drums, soaring vocals, and an overall rollicking sound. Call it snobbery or just an attempt to whittle down the heap of music before me, but this time it bit me in the ass. Lungs is a great album.
So it was with eager ears that I took to Florence and The Machine’s newest release, Ceremonials. And I wasn’t disappointed, at least not too much. Welch’s soaring voice is there, along with her signature harp, crashing drums, and a general sense of grandiosity. If these things sound like what made Lungs so great, it’s because they are. Welch’s voice is perfect for the epic kind of music she makes. On “Never Let Me Go,” she demonstrates the incredibly high range that, coupled with her immense volume, adds a highly emotive vocal aspect to the music. Include a backup chorus jockeying with Welch’s refrains of “never let me go,” and it’s a perfect example of what Florence and the Machine is capable of.
“Lover To Lover,” one of the strongest cuts on Ceremonials, finds Welch trying her hand at Aretha Franklin soul; fortunately, she has the pipes for it. Over an incredibly catchy piano riff, Welch moves through lulls before she builds it up into a joyously crashing cascade of howls and croons.
Through the highs and lows, there are plenty of constants. The steady beat of drums that provides the backbone of Florence’s sound seems ever-present. Same with the harp. Florence and The Machine doesn’t shy away from their trademark sound. Rather, they embrace it, building it higher. Unfortunately, this results in a much less varied album than Lungs. While they might toss in new elements, Florence and The Machine isn’t necessarily branching out. In fact, it almost seems to be the opposite: Sticking to what they do best and shying away from experimentation. Still, Ceremonials boasts some standout tracks, though the entirety of the album is less of a cohesive whole. Chalk it up to a musician trying to find the middle ground somewhere in between mainstream success and artistic vision, but Ceremonials still finds ways to be an enjoyable sophomore effort from Florence and The Machine.