Florence + the Machine, "Ceremonials" (Universal Republic)
2011 is the year of Paul Epworth. You may not recognize his name, but you know his work.
He's the producer and co-writer behind Adele's drum-filled "Rolling In the Deep." He also worked on two other tracks on the best-selling singer's "21" album. And he's also the mastermind — or machine — behind Florence + the Machine's sophomore effort, "Ceremonials."
Epworth produced the entire album, creating exceptional songs that sound mysterious, big and arena-ready, and it all complements that powerful voice of the group's front woman, Florence Welch.
They're epic on album opener "Only If for a Night," and they keep that momentum on the tracks to follow: "Shake It Out," which Welch calls "the hangover tune," is one of the year's best tracks with its positive message about letting things go, and enjoying life instead. That's followed by "What the Water Gave Me," a dramatic tune about drowning.
Welch's vocals are impeccable throughout, sounding soft and lovely on "Never Let Me Go" and bossy on "No Light, No Light." The hooks on "Ceremonials" are addictive, especially "Heartlines," with its drum sounds and chant.
Epworth was responsible for some of the magic on the debut by Florence + the Machine, 2009's "Lungs." But there were other magicians, too: Eg White — another Adele collaborator — produced the song "Hurricane Drunk," and the top-notch album also featured James Ford, who produced the hit "Dog Days Are Over." They still work as songwriters on "Ceremonials," but Epworth's in full charge, and amazingly good at it.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Having a bad day? "Shake It Out" should shake that out.
Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/musicmesfin