Florence + The Machine: Ceremonials 

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With her stunning 2009 debut, Lungs, Florence Welch proved she had the pipes, the songs, and enough musicians around her to give you explosions and silences. Her follow up, however, is Florence all out to become the world's greatest pop diva — epic choruses, lots of keyboards, booming drums, and, as always, damn great song after damn great song. Compared to her debut, this is a big-budget reply to herself, as if showing us she can excel both at her most intimate and at her most Lady Gagaesque. But when it comes to substance, no one can touch her: alternative edge, gothic intensity, arena choruses, and the most lethal commentary on lost love and screwed relationships since Liz Phair's arrival. A first for her in this album is the way she channels both '60s Phil Spector and late '80s George Harrison in "Breaking Down," a dreamy pop gem that showcases her vocal versatility. She can howl, and she can whisper like no other. But listen to this one from beginning to end, and don't allow yourself to be carried away by her excesses. Then, go back to Lungs and surrender: you could do a lot worse than Florence + The Machine.

★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)




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