Florence and The Machine – Ceremonials

Florence and The Machine return with their second effort Ceremonials, a release well-placed to capture similar acclaim to that of its break-out predecessor, Lungs.

Ceremonials, just as its title suggest, is a record defined by an immense rhapsody. At every turn, Florence and The Machine indulge in an unashamedly theatrical approach, one almost gothic in its execution. However, for all its boom crash opera, Ceremonials never overlooks the fundamentals of any sure-fire indie pop formula.

Only If For A Night opens the record with simmering tension and an emphatic illustration of splendours to come; although the delectable siren-song Shake It Off casts a great shadow over the opener. The fiery euphoria of the album’s lead single is striking for its sheer ecstasy and triumph and offers arguably the album’s biggest and best moment.

However, Shake It Off is a rare taste of optimism. Ceremonials specialises in a kind of nervous angst, with bouts of crushing baroque-pop melancholy. Heartlines is the foremost example, flourishing with a Fleet-Foxes-inspired melodrama. The bittersweet beauty of Breaking Down also emerges as one of the record’s highlights, its trembling resignation gaining gradual momentum; “I think I’m breaking down again,” fears Welch, in quiet panic. Later, conflict defines No Light No Light, which sees Welch pressured and defensive, making for compelling drama.

Welch’s immaculate vocal gymnastics never fail to impress, imbuing the the album with the same fevered passion as its instrumentation. Every swell and crescendo is matched with ease. Upon the release of Lungs, this charismatic chanteuse was very much a bolt from the blue. Now, Ceremonials does much to solidify Welch’s place as one of the finest voices the contemporary pop landscape has to offer.

Ceremonials offers some evolution from Lungs, emerging a much darker body of work, though it would be a bridge too far to label the record a radical departure and the band has a tendency to rehash old tricks. Ceremonials packs a punch early, but it lands its blows in a fairly familiar manner as the record progresses. It’s easy enough to become numb to the album’s grandeur towards the tail-end of its 56 highly-strung minutes. Everything is big all of the time and, unsurprisingly, such an element can become tiresome.

But even if it’s not wholly surprising unto itself, nor within the context of the band’s fledgling career, there’s plenty to like about Ceremonials. The album presents a showcase of compelling pop music dressed up to the nines, executed with heart, soul and glorious chest-beating flamboyance.