I’m not a Ceremonial person.

18 Dec

“You enjoy Regina Spektor? You’re going to LOVE Florence and the Machine“.
“Sweet, I’ll give them a listen!”
The first speaker in this dialogue was wrong.

Perhaps Florence and her Machine started off on the wrong foot with me. My first impression of the talked-about band was their live desecration of Cold War Kids’ Hospital Beds, in which Florence Welch, strong and powerfully-harnessed though her vocals may be, failed to capture the original vulnerability of the song. Hearing her shout through one of Cold War Kids’ most poignant and empathetic masterpieces was like watching someone drown a single, delicate potted flower with a pressure-hose.

Whilst Florence can really belt out her notes without a blemish and works excellently with vocal trills, her voice to me lacks a depth of pitch that is an emotional as well as a sonic quality: whilst she is very eccentric and impassioned, this spirit of hers comes across in her music as force rather than feeling. Her near-constant vocally gunning-it translates from song to speech as shouting rather than simply speaking, constructing a distance between the singer and the listener, as though she is shouting because we are too far away from her (both physically and metaphysically) to hear her.

Florence’s latest album, Ceremonials, is well-constructed in its instrumental layering ( including a good  use of backing vocal harmonies), giving it a rich, finished sound, however the vocal melodies running through this album aren’t much that one wouldn’t’ve already picked up from the pop-rock they listened to in their early teens.

Despite my hangups, however, “Breaking Down” is an ironically-upbeat, brilliantly sardonic song about clinical depression never really leaving you alone.

Ceremonials is technically well put-together, however not magnanimously captivating. Florence Welch has attitude and a strong sense of self, but not enough musical sensitivity to draw me into her soundscape.



5 Responses to “I’m not a Ceremonial person.”

  1. Johnny Boy. 18 December 2011 at 11:38 AM #

    Speaking as a long-time Florence fan, I have to say Ceremonials disappointed me. It ditches the quirkiness and variety of Lungs in favour of constant and unrelenting sonic melodrama… oh well. 2nd album syndrome. Just hope that the xx’s new effort doesn’t suffer from the same.

  2. Thomas James Mathew 18 December 2011 at 3:33 PM #

    I couldn’t agree more, actually. I felt like she was just belting it out as hard as she could in every single song, and nothing much really changes ever.

  3. Michelle Avenant 19 December 2011 at 2:06 AM #

    My point exactly… I just used more words 😛

  4. Jon Wilson 20 December 2011 at 12:10 PM #

    i actually thought it was rather fantastic. 🙂 although yes very different from Lungs, she sounds more cohesive on this one and her vocals are just that powerful ^_^ so shouting? maybe? but great shouting not? and the instrumentals are loud and fluid. just my opinion 🙂 different from lungs? yeah, people change and so does music 🙂

    also looking forward to xx’s sophmore effort 🙂

    • Michelle Avenant 24 December 2011 at 7:26 AM #

      Well, each to their own, I suppose 🙂 That’s the great thing about music, really. One man’s “eh” is another man’s “ee!”

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