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CD review: Florence + The Machine’s ‘Ceremonials’

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Annie Zaleski

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Florence + The Machine 'Ceremonials'
Four stars

Anyone befuddled by Florence + The Machine’s rapid rise in popularity needs only to spin Ceremonials, the band’s fantastic second album. The disc’s instrumentation is ornate and whimsical, like Björk scoring a fantasy movie set in a medieval castle. Strings dart through the moody, Arcade Fire-y “Breaking Down,” monstrous drums thunderstorm through “No Light, No Light” and “Heartlines,” and a lovely harp adds dainty melancholy to “Spectrum.” Unlike the treacly sentimentality expressed by most pop stars, frontwoman Florence Welch’s emotional bloodletting is a sucker punch to the soul. Whether it’s optimism (and bravery) in the face of peril, a longing for something elusive or the conveying of romantic uncertainty, Welch isn’t afraid of messy feelings and vulnerable sentiments. She’s also not averse to tempering her dramatic tendencies—seriously, her vocals are a powerhouse combination of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Siouxsie Sioux and Sarah McLachlan—with stirring soul undertones.

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