Power surges on album


Florence and her machine take their majestic blend of folk, soul and pop to new heights on “Ceremonials.” 

As one of 2009’s breakout successes, Florence + the Machine has seen its popularity soar, thanks to the power of singles “Dog Days Are Over” and “Cosmic Love” off 2009’s “Lungs.” 

The collective is led by Florence Welch, a fiery singer with an air-raid siren voice and an ear for melody and composition. 

At first glance, she is the latest in a long line of British soul divas. Yet there’s something that sets her music apart from the classic soul beltings of Adele or the pop stylings of Ellie Goulding

Welch is closer to an indie songstress such as Regina Spektor or Neko Case, albeit one that blows up her songs into gorgeous alt-indie-soul creations. 

“Ceremonials” doesn’t stray much from that formula. The album reflects her newfound ambitions as well as experience touring with stadium rock giants U2

At the start of the album, the listener is lulled in by joyous church bells, only to be jarred out of the tranquil scene by piano hits and Welch opening her lungs and heart with the simple phrase “I had a dream.” 

It certainly must have been a big dream, for “Only If for a Night” is a behemoth. 

Throughout, Welch wails about practical ghosts and secret ceremonials over thundering drums, minor-key piano, strings and a choir. The song is a powerhouse, infecting Welch’s somber themes of loss and remembrance with the bombast and elevation of the ’80s pop that has influenced her. It’s been done before, but it’s rarely been done this well. 

The album’s breakout single “Shake It Out” follows with a similar feel to the previous song, yet with a much more uplifting tone in both lyrics and melody. 

Though it isn’t the best song on the album, “Shake it Out” perfectly exemplifies the sound and strengths of the group.

“What The Water Gave Me” carries the momentum of previous tracks, building to a conclusion that displays the range and power of Welch’s voice. 

From here, the album diverges into gorgeous ballads — “Leave My Body” and “Never Let Me Go,” ’60s soul — Lover To Lover, and pop gems — “No Light, No Light,” all propelled by the arrangements and instrumentation. 

Commendation must be given to The Machine — throughout the album their playing allows the songs to fully take flight. An extra nod should be given to Isabella Summers — the original “machine,” when the band was just a two-piece of her and Welch — who plays the keys and directs the choir and string sections, two important aspects of this album. 

The album isn’t perfect, as there are a few songs such as “Breaking Down” and “Seven Devils” that can’t compete with the rest of the album. 

The album also lacks a sense of dynamics. Every song is an epic, and the album is constantly firing on all cylinders with little to no room for subtlety and nuance. 

Yet in the end, Florence + the Machine shoots for the stars and succeeds, creating a standout record that unites everyone from “Twilight” fans to cynical hipsters under its banner.