Review: Florence & the Machine – ‘Ceremonials’

Originally published for IAreYeti.

Since winning the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards in 2009, Florence & the Machine have only gone from strength to strength, with debut album ‘Lungs’ selling millions worldwide. The only trouble, however, with releasing such a well-received debut album is the pressure to follow up with a second album, which is just as good or, if you’re lucky, better than your first. In true Florence & the Machine style, ‘Ceremonials’ is packed full of dreamy melodies, heavy drumming and the usual belting vocals, which Florence has become known for. However, while ‘Lungs’ could be described as understated at times, ‘Ceremonials’ is nothing of the like and, instead, is brash and over-the-top.

Lead single, ‘Shake It Out’, is a good example of what to expect from the rest of the album: lots of shouting and over production. While it’s normal for an album to have a couple of these kinds of songs, to be released as singles, it’s difficult to stomach an album full of them. Again, second single, ‘What the Water Gave Me’, could have been a very good song, had it not been ruined in the last few minutes by the ridiculously overpowering production. In fact, it’s difficult to pin down one song, which hasn’t been overshadowed by the production levels.

There’s not much resting time on this album and by the time you reach the end, you feel like breathing a sigh of relief. It’s so over-charged and aggressive that you barely have any time to consider the lyrics or ideas in the songs. To put it bluntly, there’s just far too much going on at once and, had it been toned down, it would be a far easier album to listen to. Then again, maybe this is simply the album Florence has always wanted to make but didn’t have the means to, prior to the success of ‘Lungs’.

However promising her debut may have been, with the release of quite a disappointing follow-up, we are yet to see exactly what Florence & the Machine can really do. Perhaps they peaked too early or perhaps the pressure to follow-up such a huge debut album just became too much for them. Nevertheless, they still have a sold out arena tour to look forward to in March, in which the songs on ‘Ceremonials’ will fit perfectly, and any festivals they may play in the summer, so all is not lost for Florence & the Machine.

Overall Rating: 2/5

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