I saw Florence + the Machine in concert twice this summer alone. Florence makes an appearance on every mixtape I've made since 2009. I know every word to all of their songs, even the B-sides and covers. Needless to say, when I heard that a new album would be released on Halloween, my expectations were very high. With a giddy heart, I am overjoyed to say that Ceremonials did not disappoint. Thank God. I don’t think I could have taken it otherwise.
Ceremonials comes to Florence’s leagues of fans two years after the release of their debut album Lungs. Winning more than 15 awards, Lungs garnered nearly universal praise and propelled frontwoman Florence Welch into the pop culture stratosphere. The British singer quickly became the muse of both Karl Lagerfeld and Dolce & Gabanna. Not bad for being only 25. The pressure to make an album as stunning as the first was high. Ceremonials gracefully has taken on the pressure to create something still grounded in Welch’s stellar pipes but more stylistically diverse thanks to tracks like "Lover to Lover," clearly influenced by the 1960s girl group era, and synth-heavy serenades such as "No Light, No Light."
Released in August, the first single off of Ceremonials is titled "What the Water Gave Me" and starts slow and menacing. A church organ and dreamy guitars build only to slow the pace again. A choir joins in until Florence explodes, strong and sexy — exactly as she should be. You will want to scream. You will want to frolic in the fields. And you will probably miss that the song is a nod to Virginia Woolfe’s suicide. That’s fine. Now you know.
“No Light, No Light” is extremely catchy. It’s sassy. It has synth. Yes, a Florence + the Machine song contains synth paired with a harp and an organ. I couldn't make this up if I tried. This will undoubtedly be a concert favorite with its powerful drumbeats and relatable lyrics that are not completely concealed in metaphor and fantasy.
Florence + the Machine mixed it up on “Lover to Lover.” There is old-school soul in the piano and arrangements that are incredibly genuine and a nod to an era that was sure to have been an inspiration to the crooning siren. Repeating over and over again “There’s no salvation for me now," the listener is along for the ride for whatever escapade Florence has in store for the night.
“Bedroom Hymns," available as a bonus track on iTunes, combines tribal drumbeats, ragtime piano and lyrics that seem to suggest a threesome with Jesus. Knowing that Florence’s lyrics always stem directly from life experiences, it made me wonder what event inspired this sultry trio.
Overall, Florence + the Machine could not have done better. This album seems to have averted the sophomore slump usually feared in the music industry. Let the countdown to the Ceremonials tour begin.
Final Grade: A