Lilies and cupcakes and candles, oh my – it could only be a playback of the new Florence and the Machine album, Ceremonials. In an upstairs room in an east London pub earlier this week, seven tracks (“don’t worry, it’s not a really short album, this is just a bit of it”) got their first airing. It sounds loud, and expensive. It’s hard to get any sense of pace, since it was a selection of tracks rather than the whole thing, but it’s fairly relentless in terms of its enormity.
There are a few shifts in sound, with a Frank Ocean-ish R&B feel to one and some trancey synths on another, and there’s a definite eye on America. But otherwise, it’s business as usual: devils, horses, prayers and hearts feature heavily, and moodily.
Only If for a Night
Here’s that slow-jam influence, with layers of gloomy synths setting the tone for the a story of a dream about a girl from school. “It was strange and so surreal that a ghost should be so practical,” she trills. For those concerned that the kooky, spooky Florence might have been retired in favour of cold hard scientific fact, this suggests that she hasn’t.
Shake It Out
This has already leaked, and sets the dynamic of almost all these tracks, in terms of its quiet-to-loud-louder-really-quite-loud dynamic. It’s easy to imagine this as an X Factor winner’s single. I had written down the lyrics as “take it off, take it off”, incidentally, which is a bit more “hen do”, and might have been worth considering for its commercial value, especially in these post Here Come the Girls times.
Never Let Me Go
Here’s another huge, crashing semi-ballad. This is like one of those bombastic Ryan Tedder productions, and since he was responsible for Beyoncé’s Halo, Jordin Sparks’s Battlefield and Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love, among others, it’s full of thumping stadium drums and sounds like it has the US charts in its epic crosshairs.
No Light, No Light
A wonky piano, a choir and the return of the harp, as well as more Phil Collins-ey drums, in the tale of what appears to be a humdinger of a domestic – Kiss With a Fist, but more grown-up, and colder. “I’d do anything to make you stay,” she sings, before switching tack: “You want a revelation, no light no light in your bright blue eyes.” Like the rest of these tracks, it’s kitchen sink and then some, but there’s a little more texture here.
Florence seems to be singing “say my name” over and over, which Destiny’s Child have already laid claim to, but aside from that this is another subtle shift in sound, with 90s house added to some more harp. It had a hint of Olive’s You’re Not Alone.
Leave My Body
Previously enjoyed teaser track What the Water Gave Me takes itself in a Stonesy direction towards the end, twisting itself into more of a grower than initial listens would suggest. This is more of the same, a 60s bluesy stomp with the same brittle recklessness of Lungs’ Hurricane Drunk. “I don’t care if I live or die,” she insists. “I don’t want no future, I don’t need no past.”