florence and the machine


    Florence fans have been given tantalising insights into her new material over the past few months, with new tracks being showcased live on her recent jaunt to America, including “Bedroom Hymns” and “What The Water Gave Me”. The latter has been given a studio makeover and new video, released as a ‘first taste’ of the new album (yet to be given a title) that is set to be released in the UK on Island on the 7th November this year.

    Cutting between shots of Flo and co in the studio and her singing in what looks like a back garden of a country mansion, the video shows the two sides of the singer: the ethereal, dark, brooding stage presence that makes her live show so captivating and the bubbly, charming and eccentric person behind the music.

    The song itself is a triumph, featuring strange noises and full of muted trademark harp. Florence’s voice is slightly more laid back than her usual ‘howl’ (she almost whispers the line ‘you couldn’t have it any other way’) before building to a glorious crescendo, boosted by the background choir that has appeared more and more frequently in FATM’s newest offerings. The song ends as gradually as it begins, with that harp petering out, meaning that the overwhelming nature of the song washes in and out in 5 minutes, like a high spring tide, leaving thoughts and imagery scattered like driftwood and pebbles on the beach. This shows Florence’s fixation with the darker side of life, with even the festival worthy, sing-a-long hook being a musing on drowning; ‘lay me down/ let the only sound be the overflow/ pockets full of stones/ lay me down…’ Of the song Florence said “In music and art what I’m really interested in are the things that are overwhelming. The ocean seems to me to be a great overwhelmer.”

    Holly Read-Challen


    Following on from “What The Water Gave Me” surfacing a few weeks ago, Flo and her band of faceless merry men have revealed details for their upcoming second album. Entitled "Ceremonials", the LP is released on October 31st and will, like their debut “Lungs”, feature a disc of bonus material. As you might have guessed, that up there is the artwork for the album.

    The tracklisting for “Ceremonials” is:

    1. Only If For A Night
    2. Shake It Out
    3. What The Water Gave Me
    4. Never Let Me Go
    5. Breaking Down
    6. Lover To Lover
    7. No Light, No Light
    8. Seven Devils
    9. Heartlines
    10. Spectrum
    11. All This And Heaven Too
    12. Leave My Body

    The tracklisting for the Ceremonials bonus disc is:

    1. Remain Nameless
    2. Strangeness & Charm
    3. Bedroom Hymns
    4. What The Water Gave Me (Demo)
    5. Landscape (Demo)
    6. Heartlines (Demo)
    7. Shake It Out (Demo)
    8. Breaking Down (Demo)

    The second new song to surface from Florence's sophomore album is killer. She might be something of a Marmite artist within indie circles and “What The Water Gave Me” continued the folksy pagan routine of the past, but "Shake It Out" is bigger, bolder and better than pretty much everything on “Lungs”. Crashing drums thrown on top of layered backing vocals and organs; to use a well-worn-out internet phrase, it’s epic. From what we’ve heard of “Ceremonials”, you can expect Ms Welch to be playing some very big gigs in the near future.


    The latest name in hipster R&B Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd have remixed Florence Welch's comeback single. Taking the gospel-tinged stomp of the original, Tesfaye transforms "Shake It Out" into a dark and sexy groove, not too dissimilar to The xx, albeit with a tad more bombast.

    The Weeknd’s remix will be the b-side for the single, released on October 2nd.


    Here’s the video for Flo's bloody good single "Shake It Out". It’s a rather grand affair, involving a masked ball, a stately home and the requisite amount of merriment. What’s not to like?


    I’m sure the wildly popular Ms Welch has a lot of critics who would like to push her off a tall building. Here they get their wish… sort of. Flo falls from a skyscraper, through the roof of a church and is carried off by choirboys. Probably not the ending those critics hoped for, but you can’t win ‘em all.


    Looks like Florence has succeeded in covering four artists at once. Playing a six song set for BBC Radio One, Flo and her anonymous Machine covered Drake and Rihanna’s "Take Care" (the undisputed highlight of Drizzy’s recent album), which samples Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx’s “I’ll Take Care Of U”. There’s not much difference from either previous version of the song, and you’ll have to make it through Florence’s horrible middle-class politeness first, but it’s a damn fine cover.

  8. It was clear from the moment that Florence Welch walked on stage at the NEC that this was going to be a good show. As the atmospheric opening notes of ‘Only If For A Night’ reverberated through the arena, her silhouette appeared at the top of a flight of stairs with a magnificent Art Deco ‘Ceremonials’ backdrop – and the crowd went wild. Her penchant for extravagant costumes had resulted in a skin-tight black cat suit with a slightly Gothic shoulderpiece and cape (which, of course, only Florence Welch could ever possibly pull off) and what might have looked like ridiculous fancy dress on someone else was, on Florence, perfect. It seamlessly slotted in to what was, together with the stage design and the music, an utterly entertaining performance.

    In contrast to her imposing stage presence, Florence was surprisingly meek when talking to the crowd. I lost count of how many times she thanked us all for being there – her astounding success and extravagant costumes clearly haven’t gone to her head. Her speaking voice was also unexpectedly quiet considering the pair of lungs she has, but that only endeared her to the crowd even more.

    There was no way that her hushed tones were going to restrain Florence from getting the crowd going, though. She must have tested the structural integrity of the arena to its maximum by getting the whole crowd jumping throughout ‘Dog Days Are Over’. Most of the time, though, we needed no encouragement – it was almost impossible to stay still when irresistible tunes like ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ and ‘You’ve Got The Love’ kicked off. And, pleasingly, the setlist didn’t shy away from these big hits.

    Although Florence’s performance was pretty all-consuming, a word must be said about the band as well. I’m never quite sure whether Florence and the Machine should be referred to as ‘her’ or ‘them’, but in any case it was clear on the night that the band was a vital part of the act. They did a brilliant job of transferring heavily layered studio tracks, particularly those of ‘Ceremonials’, to the live stage. In fact, they didn’t put a foot wrong all night.

    In short, there really wasn’t much more that Florence and the Machine could have done. The whole stage was buzzing with infectious energy, and both the music and the crowd were electric as a result. Florence Welch proved, as she has done so many times, that she is more than just a singer – she’s a born performer too, and one that I can’t wait to see again.

  9. Yep, it’s that time again. It feel concurrently like 2011’s Mercury Prize ceremony occurred both just yesterday and aeons ago, but it’s been a year since PJ Harvey picked up the prize for Let England Shake, becoming the first artist to win the prize twice. That album was the expected winner from pre-nomination hype to the second before the envelope opened, but this year there doesn’t seem to be much of a clear-cut front runner. We’ll take a look at who could and should get nominated… (as a reminder, only British and Irish albums released between 12th July 2011 and 11th September 2012 qualify for nomination)

    The Mercury panel rather like their token selections, resulting in the handful of jazz, classical and fringe nominations every year (hello there Gwilym Simcock). They also love to throw a massive seller or two in the mix as well (hello there Adele’s 21), so you can expect Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials and Ed Sheeran's on the final list, and with her ubiquitousness at both Olympic ceremonies this summer, it’s highly likely Emeli Sande's name will pop up somewhere. Kate Bush’s Fifty Names For Snow fills the veteran and comeback criteria, so would be a decent bet for nomination if not victory, if there are any gamblers out there. Its connection with its parent film of the same name, as well as its prescience could earn Plan B's iLL Manors a nod; selecting a socially-concious “state of the nation” record would certainly give the Mercury a dollop of relevance.

    It’ll certainly be a crime to see Laura Marling left off this year’s shortlist. Her third album A Creature I Don’t Know was one of the highlights of 2011 and Marling’s strongest album to date. The same could be said of both Los Campesinos!’s Hello Sadness and Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything by (unsurprisingly) Johnny Foreigner; both were hailed as the bands’ best albums so far by fans and critics alike (apart from one notorious downmarket magazine) and are certainly deserving of nomination. However it’s unlikely either will appear on the final list, purely because it’s rare to see an album of this breed of indie rock nominated by Mercury. More straightforward indie albums like The Cribs In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull, The Maccabees' Given To The Wild, The Vaccines' Come Of Age or The Futureheads' Rant! are far more likely to pop up on the shortlist, though whether they’re deserving is another question (The Cribs and The Maccabees probably don’t, The Vaccines’ album has only been out a week, so it’s hard to tell, The Futureheads might get a nod for the bravery and quirk of releasing an acapella album).

    Judged on early hype, Alt-J seem to be most people’s choice for An Awesome Wave, although that may just be through sparsity of a top-tier, clear-cut winner. The Cambridge quartet do seem like standard Mercury fare, like Everything Everything last year, but it’s hard to see them winning the whole shebang. The same goes for a fair few potential nominees released in 2012; Django Django, The Twilight Sad, Islet, Bloc Party, 2:54, Pulled Apart By Horses, Richard Hawley, Hot Chip, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Seeing any of those names amongst the nominees would be expected (although choosing Bloc Party for Four would be baffling), but it’s hard to see how they’d win.

    When it comes to choosing a winner, only two albums stick out for us. Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion has received near-universal praise from all quarters, finally giving us a British popstar who’s not boring as all hell who also has several bucketloads of talent. To be quite honest, she deserves nominating for "110%" alone. Our other pick would have to be The xx's sublime Coexist. Following up their Mercury-winning self-titled debut was always going to be a challenge, but they seem to have pulled it off with aplomb. Eleven perfect songs that retain the band’s style but advances their sound, Coexist is very likely a contender for album of the year and only just sneaks into the list of possible nominations, being released on the last eligible day. Should Coexist win the prize, the London three-piece will be the first group to win the Mercury twice; an astonishing feat considering this is only their second album, where as Radiohead are still waiting for their first win, after 15 years and six nominations.

    So there you have it, a brief guide to what to expect when the official nominations are released next Wednesday. Who do you think deserves to win?