The success of Florence and the Machine’s debut, 2009’s Lungs, left Florence Welch with little free time to work on its sophomore album, which she planned on making darker, heavier and denser. Ceremonials is the divine result of that proposed blueprint. Welch sings and writes with the power and elegance of any number of brilliant predecessors; “Only If For a Night” quivers like a baroque Pop spin on Joan Armatrading, “Shake It Out” raises the church roof with the gale force vocals of Annie Lennox, “Seven Devils” soars with the delicately towering presence of Kate Bush and “No Light, No Light” pierces with the vulnerable strength of Sinead O’Connor. Welch’s particular talent lies in assimilating all of those amazing musical forces as conceptual elements and crafting her own unique identity from the raw ingredients.
Ceremonials is exactly as Welch intended it in the ideation phase; lyrically and musically darker, rhythmically tribal and orchestrally more grand, a Pop hymnal for now parishioners. While it is clearly a bumpier, more problematic ride than Lungs, Ceremonials is also more artfully intricate, inherently soulful, appropriately bombastic and singularly focused, qualities that most sophomore albums do not embody. Florence Welch and her well-oiled Machine are two for two and headed for a glorious string of beloved albums. Grade: A