What the Water Gave Me (8/23/11) #91 US, #24 UK, #35 AR
Shake It Out (9/14/11) #79 US, #12 UK, #16 AR
No Light, No Light (11/18/11) --
A deluxe edition of the album included alternate versions of the songs as well as the tracks “Remain Nameless”, “Strangeness and Charm”, and “Bedroom Hymns”.
Florence + the Machine
Florence and the Machine had great success with their 2009 debut, Lungs, an album which hit #1 in the UK and scooped up a Brit Award. The indie pop band had a fair amount of success stateside as well where the album went top 20 and spawned a top 40 hit with “Dog Days Are Over”.
This all built up expectations for the group’s follow-up effort – and the expectation of the dreaded sophomore slump. Instead, Ceremonials was named Album of the Year by Q magazine and made a decent showing on multiple other year-end lists as well. As NME magazine’s Barry Nicolson said, that for the album the group is taking “what worked about Lungs and amplifying those qualities to a natural satisfying conclusion.” WK
For her second album, Florence Welch and her crew have crafted an ode to “older, more-or-less illustrious forbears, who include Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Tyler, Björk, Fiona Apple.” PMA In Billboard magazine, Jillian Mapes, said Florence Welch and her crew have created “left-of-center pop anthems that sound equal parts U2 and Tori Amos.” BB The album was praised it for its diverse mix of genres and use of different instruments. Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone said “the music touches on Celtic melodies, bluesy rock stomps, nods to goth and gospel.” WK Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly called it “a baroque cathedral, bedecked with ornate tapestries made of ghostly choirs, pagan-rhythmic splendor, and a whole lot of harp.” WK
For example, “Welch’s impressive vocal range and volume are firing on all cylinders” BB on Spectrum and No Light, No Light “exudes utter strength.” BB Elsewhere, “the word ‘epic’ is almost too weak” BB to describe the “brooding and windswept” BBCWhat the Water Gave Me, “a drowning narrative spread across five+ minutes of soaring, singalong pop-rock.” BBLover to Lover offers “glorious vocal runs” BB and “choir chants of salvation. Flo lands somewhere between gospel and "Heard It Through The Grapevine," but you know, British. A bit Adele of her.” BB
Indeed, it has even been said that Florence “has songs and a voice to rival Adele.” PMASpin magazine’s Rob Harvilla said the album boasts “immaculately crafted, slow-burn, chest-beating empowerment anthems, gripping steel bars that her elegantly volcanic voice could shred at any moment.” WK One such track is Breaking Down, “an album highlight that brings a much-needed uptempo jolt. It’s refreshing to hear Florence whispering rather than vocally stomping – which, she does break into toward the end, and to a chill-inducing effect.” BB On All This and Heaven Too “Welch laments a girlish ineptitude at love…but the take-away is a sweet girl-likes-boy story atop sweeping pop strings.” BB
Welch’s indie/goth persona is on full display here as with her last album. Shake It Up is a “stadium-willing anthem about getting past one’s troubles” PF and sums up “Welch’s goth-pop allure.” BB She “conjures…otherworldly spirits via call-and-response with her chorus” BB on Leave My Body. The “stunning” BB The “sinister” BBCSeven Devils brings “to mind Ouija board séances” BB “via eerie strings.” BB It should be noted that this albums was “fittingly released on Halloween.” BBC
Criticism of the album asserted that it “offers the pomp, but somehow not quite the power, of Welch’s debut: this is all grandeur without any grace.” BBC At times it feels like Welch is “simply holding out a single note at top volume for an hour.” PF This album finds the group “trying very hard to top the gargantuan drums and cascading harps and chest-thumping choruses of Lungs.” PF
Among the lesser tracks is the opening Only if for Night, “one of the album’s many booming piano and tribal drum crescendos and chorus-fueled singalongs” BB which tries “just a little too hard to be an anthem” BB with “a mix of bombast and ballast.” BBCHeartlines also misses slightly; “Florence and her chorus are muddled by big drums that recall Kanye West’s ‘Power’. However, lyrical specificity…and a brief tribal refrain redeem as the track progresses.” BBNever Let Me Go is a “R&B-tinged piano ballad that feels like a better fit on the more disjointed Lungs than the cohesively haunting Ceremonials.” BB
In the end, the best way to assess the album may be to allow that “the whole of the album is so far greater than its parts that no matter how ridiculous it can seem at any one moment, minor gripes can be forgotten and are sometimes elevated into strengths. The key to Ceremonials’ success is Welch’s fundamental and vigorous commitment to her vision, however flawed, and her melodies, which are always impeccable.” PMA This is “a stellar pop album draped in exquisite and perplexing cloths.” PMA