One of the most highly anticipated new releases of the fall season is the second record from Florence & The Machine. The first sign of hope from this record came with the intentional leak of What The Water Gave Me, a to-the-point no-whistles song inferring the death of Virginia Woolf, the English writer who famously drowned herself by putting rocks in her pockets and walking into the river. Florence’s vocals mixed with layers of voices as she sings “lay me down/let the only sound/be the overflow/pockets full of stones” evoke a sense of thrashing water as it rushes through the ears and over the head while ending in a mere trickle as the deed is done. Easily one of the best recordings of the year as it helps to provide an idea of what to expect from the rest of the album.
Ceremonials opens with a hopeful reminiscence in Only If For The Night, which clearly lays out the sound that will follow for the remainder of the record. Distinct melodies and a massive sound throughout, Florence chants out for the chorus “only if for the night” in a dreamlike trance fully supported by her band of followers and the hook drives in. While Shake It Out, the first official single from the album, has its own memorable melody that should make it a moderate hit, Never Let Me Go will be the song to give the album legs. It has the sound to be that one big crossover hit from the record that will get non-stop airplay once it becomes an established hit. Not unlike what Use Somebody did for Kings of Leon, Never Let Me Go has that sound to make it big.
The record is an instant hit with the delivery of the songs, each provide space to make their own to fit on Ceremonials but nothing that stands out against the rest. Lover To Lover keeps with the style of the rest of the album, bringing in a very bright 80s-sounding power-pop influence before breaking out into the soulful chorus “there’s no salvation for me now/no space among the clouds.” A gospel choir could break out at any moment.
If you haven’t been made a follower at this point, Seven Devils does the work of sorcery with its hypnotic chorus. The eerily haunting proclamation: “seven devils all around you/seven devils in your house” is the final brainwashing step in the ceremony.
Looking beyond the songs, there’s not anything in particular that makes a song distinctly Florence. Many of these could have been done by someone else and without question. All This And Heaven Too, for example, sounds like a song styled and presented like one Alanis Morissette would have done in the middle of the last decade. However, the distinguishable quality of a Florence song lies in the production with producer Paul Epworth (Adele, Cee Lo Green, Kate Nash, etc). Every song is made to sound massive with that signature reverb without which these songs wouldn’t be as significant.
Perhaps there’s a level of foreshadowing with the production that foretells the perfection of these songs being performed in stadium settings and sounding just as they do on the record. The album was prepped to be huge. And perhaps also, this sound could be one that ushers in the next era of pop music as we see many Florence sound-a-likes within the next few years. Either way, it looks like 2012 could be the Year of the Machine.
1. Only If For The Night
2. Shake It Off
3. What The Water Gave Me
4. Never Let Me Go
5. Breaking Down
6. Lover To Lover
7. No Light, No Light
8. Seven Devils
11. All This And Heaven Too
12. Leave My Body