By ALLIE PEOT
Florence + The Machine: ‘Ceremonials’
“I want my music to sound like throwing yourself out of tree, or off a tall building, or as if you’re being sucked down into the ocean and you can’t breathe,” says Florence Welch, front woman of Florence + the Machine.
If you fall for it, Florence + the Machine’s debut album, ‘Lungs’, was like a dropping out of a sapling. ‘Ceremonials’, their latest release from Universal Records, is like taking flight from a towering oak tree.
With vigor that captured audiences from London to New York, ‘Ceremonials’ bursts forth as a thunderous and shimmering collection of songs. Drawing upon predecessors like PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, the Banshees and U2, the album begs to be played upon a lofty mountaintop or overlooking a tumultuous sea.
Welch plunges bravely into her feverish melodrama on the first track ‘Only If For a Night’. A harp-heavy anthem from a graveyard, Welch indulges in some of her favorite themes: sacrifice and the surreal.
On ‘Shake It Out’ she shamelessly belts “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off”. If it weren’t for the epic sound behind her, it might be hard to believe. “I am done with my graceless heart, so tonight I’m gonna cut it out and restart,” she swells. You won’t doubt her, and that’s half the fun.
‘Lover to Lover’ is a piano-powered, rejoicing romp through gospel and Motown, Florence-style, with searing vocals and endless emotion.
Listen to ‘Ceremonials’ and escape to a world void of the mundane. It is glorious heartbreak, bleeding romance and howling wind.
Brown Bird: ‘Salt for Salt’
Morganeve Swain and David Lamb of Brown Bird layer whistles, tambourines and violins in eerie, stripped-down melodies straight from a shipyard on ‘Salt for Salt’. Deftly skirting around most bland modern-folk, the Rhode Island duo keep it simple and brilliant by sticking to their American roots and drawing inspiration from all over the world.
‘Salt for Salt’, the fifth album from this veteran folk duo, was recorded straight to tape and evokes their raw, energetic live performances. Combining poetry, grinding gypsy percussion, rollicking bluegrass and Turkish melodies, this album carries the Halloween spirit into winter.
Swain’s haunting vocals add warmth and dimension to Lambs’ folksy singing on the single ‘Finger to the Bone’. It’s a song of longing, drudgery, and awakening. Well-timed and catchy, you might indulge in the misery and howl along.
‘Blood of Angels’ is a bubbling and sneering rebellion. “I tried to be good, I was a failure,” sings Lamb, “So I took to taking all the good men down.” Rhythmic and rootsy, its dark harmony and lyrics set it apart. “Don’t come round here spreading sentimental cheer,” warns Swain in the second verse.
Not every song isn’t a gemstone; several are disappointingly vague. Lamb’s crooning occasionally draws too much upon those blue-jean clad bullfrogs of Americana. However, the instrumental track ‘Shiloh’ proves these two have serious collaborative talent and a sense of restraint, making it well worth a listen for the folk or gypsy fan.
For a chilled winter night, or an anecdote for the sticky-sweet holidays, find relief and energy in ‘Salt for Salt’.
Bombay Bicycle Club: ‘A Different Kind of Fix’
The Bombay Bicycle Club runs dangerously close to falling into the sea of indie-pop-rock bands with no outstanding qualities. Except that they’re actually good. Their latest album, A Different Kind of Fix, is a relaxing and dreamy blend of dance, rock, and electronica. Mixing elegant harmonies and dizzying loops inside a sturdy frame of trust, this third release proves that the Bombay Bicycle Club has staying power.
The single ‘Shuffle’ loops piano riffs and spontaneous hand claps behind the most energetic, electric vocals on the album. The rest of the album’s songs feature soft vocals gently climbing up solid, stadium-worthy drumming.
The songs are heavily influenced by dance music, evident in the leading track, ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’. Part melancholy, part late-summer sweetness, it is tender, yet flexes the strength of the last lone dancer on the floor. You might have heard this song on the ‘Twilight: Eclipse’ Soundtrack, but don’t let that ruin it for you.
‘Your Eyes’ rattles around brilliantly as the stand-out track out on the album, the one you’ll be humming later in the day and rushing back to hear again. Sweeping through cymbals and not-quite-cheerful vocals, it frolics around with a wooden block and rhyming lyrics.
‘What You Want’ pierces the listener with a bare opening lyric repeated – “your flesh and bone” – and a rapt guitar riff. Leaving the listener exposed and empty, it fills back up with a rich and honest love song.
‘A Different Kind of Fix’ is a step up for the Bombay Bicycle Club, and showcases their growing strength as a quartet. Textured and thoughtful, it borders on repetitive, but weaves a desirable spell of sweetness.