WOW. soaring, sweeping, and bittersweetNov 01, 2011
By Chel Micheline
Ceremonials is a *really* great album.
When I was a teenager, I used to sit in my bedroom for hours and listen to music. Sometimes I'd draw, sometimes I'd do homework, sometimes I'd read, but listening to music was the primary activity. As I have gotten older, less and less music has inspired me to devote my full attention to it. Now music has become more of an accompaniment to my life, a sort of background thing.
Florence + The Machine changed that- when "Lungs" first came out, it took back my whole attention. Every time I heard it, I found something new. Every few weeks, my favorite parts of the album would change. I'm still listening to it all the time.
Now I feel EXACTLY the same way about "Ceremonials"- I can't stop listening to it, every time I do I hear something new, and several of the songs give me goosebumps. When I'm away from it, I sing the songs to myself and get excited about being able to turn it back on again. It's sort of like a place I want to keep visiting- I know that sounds hokey, but it's been so long since I've felt so excited about music, I am kind of giddy about it.
As a whole, "Ceremonials" is a bit darker than "Lungs"- there's less twinkling of the harp (don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of beautiful harp!), less hopeful whispering about happiness, but in its place are soaring moments of Florence Welch's FULL voice (she's a powerhouse) and range. Wow.
If you liked "Lungs" at all, then I would absolutely recommend "Ceremonials". There's no doubt that Welch is the exception to the rule when it comes to the second album curse- this is the perfect followup to "Lungs" and not only does it sound perfectly right, it also *feels* perfectly right. It's dreamy and bittersweet and sweeping and epic.
I highly highly recommend this album.
70 of 75 found the following review helpful:
Worries? None.Nov 01, 2011
By Fangride I was almost worried that Florence wouldn't be able to follow up on her absolutely perfect debut, but listening to the album (For the 6th time now) all of my fears have been eradicated. Absolutely stunning vocals and lyrics swell beautifully with dark, haunting, and exciting music, with the instrumentation flowing so perfectly into the songs!
This album easily tops Lungs' stunning sound and expands upon it. If you loved Lungs, you will love this even more, of this I have little doubt.
Only If For A Night - A stunning opener, which starts off softly with 'And I had a dream/about my my old school/and she was there all pink and gold and glittering', and those three lines just leave me feeling nostalgic already, as Florence thinks about her past. The music swells into the wonderful chorus, making this song the perfect opener.
Shake It Out - The second single released thus far, and lots of fun to listen to. A far more 'dancy' tune then some of the others, even with the really dark lyrics. The deep organ sound at the start really carries the song along. 'It's always darkest before the dawn...' Florence calls, as the song picks up, and the song's central thought it revealed, albeit through an exciting tune. Great song.
What the Water Gave Me - The first single, and possiblity my favorite Florence track of all time. The song, at over 5:30 long, is a winding stunner, as Florence croons about drowning herself 'Cuz they took your loved ones, but will return them in exchange for you'. She explains why she must die, and that 'she's a crueler mistress, and a bargain must be made'. Powerful lyrics, powerful vocals, haunting melodies, and amazing music tops my music list for quite awhile.
Never Let Me Go - The beginning of the track confused me for a minute, before I really started getting into this one. A rather slow one from Florence, opening with a soft piano track and only faint drums to carry it along, alongside loads of harmony from Florence, and a loving, sweeping chorus.
Breaking Down - Starts with what sounds like a harpsichord, with a bouncy drum track, and never lets up from there. I was reluctant at first, but the harpsichord sounds proved addicted, and I'm really loving this song now. The echoing sound from Florence's voice in this one is wonderful!
Lover to Lover - Easily one of the most dance-worthy songs on the album, it sounds quite a lot like an old gospel song, which Florence's giant voice fills perfectly. The jazzy piano and the clever harmonies work wonders.
No Light, No Light - The opening of this one really kept me on my toes, as I had no idea where this one was going. The verses are so different from the chorus, but they work together wonderfully, in a big, open-space, song.
Seven Devils - Oh my god, one of the most haunting songs I've ever heard. One of my favorites. The lilting, creepy, fearful edge of the piano and strongs, conbined with a urgent sense in Florence's voice equates to one of the most stunning songs on here.
Heartlines - An aching song of what seems like some sort of love, as Florence sings over a thrumming bass line and pounding drums, with a sparkle of harp on the edges. The powerful chorus is just amazing!
Spectrum - Opening with a soft humming high violin note, as Florence sings softly over the soft music. Florence's wodnerful voice really shows its range, as we move into the throbbing chorus, settling down as the song moves to a close.
All This and Heaven Too - A quicker song, opening with sparse intrumentals, before moving into a driving chorus, as the background vocalless singing carries the song beautifully.
Leave My Body - Opens creepily, and when Florence begins to sing, the song continues the almost creepy edge, but cools off a bit, intul we pull into the haunting chorus, as Florence croons 'I'm gonna leave my body, I'm gonna lose my mind...'
Remain Nameless - Opens with a deep bass line, computerized drum beats, and echoing, haunting vocals. Sparse intrumentation, with a creepy drive the entire time, as Florence sings about how she wishes to 'remain nameless... Live without shame...". The music keeps to a stready thrum in the background during much of the song, focusing mostly on Florence's vocals and lyrics. This one has a great dance beat though, and really manages to be amazing.
Strangeness and Charm - Relentless voice, relentless music. Just plain fun, with a driving beat, loads of vocals, and a sweeping chorus. I'm glad I got the bonus tracks, especially because of this.
Bedroom Hymns - Really fun beat at the start, with a distorted electric guitar. Florence's vocals come in quickly, and carry the song on a long jaunty path. Definently has a religious feel to the song, as Florence sings about 'Jesus on the mind', and how she's 'already on her knees', as the song sweeps forward.
What the Water Gave Me (Demo) - A really interesting version of What the Water Gave Me. It starts with more of a synthesized song, instead of the sweeping music in the actual version, that makes this version sound more like a techno remix rather then a Demo. Fun nevertheless, but this one actually puts the emphasis on the chorus rather then the verses, which the actual song does in reverse.
Overall an amazing album. I'm so happy with it, and believe this is my favorite album this year.
38 of 42 found the following review helpful:
Amazing, Impressive but not LungsNov 09, 2011
By Nimnok28 For years I have always been wary of buying the 2nd album of an artist that I have fallen in love with because usually the 2nd album is a let down in more ways than one so now I rarely purchase the 2nd album after sampling the songs. With Florence + the Machine, I listened to the B-sides and didn't find any song that I liked which was sad since I absolutely LOVED every song on the first album.
So naturally I was expecting not to enjoy Ceremonials and it wasn't until I saw the video for "Shake It Out" and listened to the song that I became excited about the album. I sampled all the songs and noticed that although they were good, they were a bit different but I took the chance and downloaded the album anyway.
I must say that at first, there were only about 2 or 3 songs I liked immediately and they were Bedroom Hymns, No Light No Light, and Shake It Out. The rest of the songs didn't actually hit me until later because while I was listening to the album, I was craving Florence's voice that she belted out in Lungs but in this album, though she sounds magnificent, you don't get to hear her as well. In other words, with Lungs, it was as if Florence led the music but with Ceremonials, it's as if the music is leading Florence.
I've had the album for a week and I must say that I love it just as much as I did Lungs and there are songs that I listen to over and over again. But the only thing that is a let down (and a very small one) is the fact that due to all the instruments and choirs and back-up singers, you don't get to hear that AMAZING SULTRY voice that was the staple in Lungs.
If I had never heard Lungs and had only heard Ceremonials, I would think that Florence Welch was a pretty good singer. But having experienced Lungs over and over, I know that she is an extraordinary singer!!!! I just wish this album showed that as much as the first but I still love it and can dance to it like the first.
It's still quirky, soothing, true to heart, and I love the spiritual feel to it.
47 of 58 found the following review helpful:
Devil's AdvocateNov 02, 2011
By D Ceremonials has its fair share of lyrical references to the Devil, so it's only appropriate that I play devil's advocate to all the glowing reviews. I agree with them to some extent, but still this album is a mild disappointment. Yes, Florence is an enormous talent, and one of my favorite musicians. I've been listening to "Lungs" religiously since the day it was released, and I'll continue listening to this album too. And yes, she has a huge voice and needs huge songs to showcase it. But this album is far too consistent in its bombastic sound. It could use a few downbeat songs with reigned-in vocals to show off some vulnerability too, as well as some edgier, non-pop oriented tracks. These songs are overproduced, and repetitive, and a few of them are JUST the big voice, without any real power or passion. For me, the album's amazing, jaw-dropping, Cosmic Love moment comes very early on ("Shake it Out"), and with that song still fresh in my mind, some of those that follow seem rather empty by comparison. Ceremonials is good, but too commercial and lacking the mark of the true artist that we know Florence can be. With a debut as brilliant as "Lungs" setting our expectations so high, the followup could have been a disaster...and it's not, at all. It's a good album, with some brilliant moments. But Florence is just getting started, and if she's open to constructive criticism, her next album will be even bigger (by going smaller, as it were) and better than this one.
9 of 9 found the following review helpful:
Florence and the Machine: CeremonialsNov 01, 2011
By BeatleEd Florence and the Machine: Ceremonials [1 November 2011] By Arnold Pan PopMatters Music Editor
If there's a blueprint for art-scarred eccentrics to follow that outlines how they can aspire to become top-of-the-charts divas who still maintain the quirks that made them distinctive, you could do worse than the one Florence Welch has drawn up. There's a reason why Florence and the Machine can seem as at ease rubbing shoulders with the haute couture jet set as the band is getting remixed by au courant underground acts like the Weeknd and the xx, and that's simply because Welch exudes such confidence in her singular aesthetic vision that she can be herself: Following the same muse on her sophomore effort Ceremonials that helped her hit the big time to begin with, Welch is the kind of artist who takes the lead and lets others come along for the ride, rather than simply playing to the whims and trends of the marketplace or banking on gimmickry. As she puts it on "No Light, No Light", "You can't choose what stays and what fades away"--a sentiment that actually applies better to the music biz than to romance--so why not stick to your guns and do things on your own terms, especially when you've got a track record of making it work?
Elevating their idiosyncratic style to an even grander scale, Ceremonials makes Florence and the Machine's captivating debut Lungs seem quaint and charming in comparison. As polished and artistically challenging as that first effort was, this latest outing gets the most out of Welch's strengths as a songwriter by shooting for a higher degree of difficulty and achieving a greater level of proficiency. Go no further than matching up the two standout singles from the respective albums: While her signature hit "Dog Days Are Over" may remain the more indelible number as Florence's breakthrough song, "Shake It Out" is not only more expansive in its scope, but somehow the catchier anthem as well. Some of that has to do with tone, since the whimsy and insistent optimism of "Dog Days" have given way to the Technicolor melodramatics of "Shake It Out". But the bigger difference can be attributed to the more ambitious compositional elements incorporated into the latter song: It's not just that the brisk, gently strummed harp from "Dog Days" has been replaced by an elegiac minor-key organ arrangement on "Shake It Out", but that Welch and company keep upping the ante each time they cycle through the chorus ("I like to keep my issues strong / It's always darkest before the dawn"), finally reaching a critical mass of booming percussion and ascendant keyboards that adorns Welch's soaring singing. So if "Dog Days Are Over" is all about getting past the drama, "Shake It Out" seeks it out headlong, especially when Welch is uttering lines like, "And I am done with my graceless heart / So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart."
"Shake It Out" isn't the exception to the rule on Ceremonials, but what sets the tone and a no-holds-barred approach to the album as a whole. Indeed, there's nothing about Ceremonials to suggest that Florence is shrinking from the spotlight that's shining on her, as she takes full advantage of her opportunities not by becoming a caricature of herself or getting by on cheap stunts, but by aiming for something that's got more staying power and an eye for the bigger picture. Building up tension until it reaches a fevered pitch, "What the Water Gave Me" has a mythical quality that recalls P.J. Harvey when she's getting all archetypal, only that Florence and the Machine keeps the sound dancefloor-ready with a glossier, slinkier feel to it. The same goes for the gothic dimensions of the dirge-like "Seven Devils", as psychothriller instrumental parts like chilling piano lines and eerie strings accompany Welch's resonant vocals. And while it may not be as dramatic, "No Light, No Light" offers one of the better examples on Ceremonials of Welch's dynamic pop chops, which transform what might otherwise be an artsy-fartsy new-agey sing-along into something with more heft and depth, thanks to its propulsive rhythms and urgent melodies.
Yet what's even more powerful than Welch's sheer art-pop hubris on Ceremonials is her uncanny execution. It's something you can't help by notice as Florence and the Machine run through a gamut of genres on the album without ever sacrificing their inimitable style, hitting the mark on everything from natural forays into soulful R&B and electro-pop to a surprise plunge into glammy Britpop. On the vampy "Lover to Lover", Welch lets her rich, versatile pipes loose to show that she can do more than just keep pace with her big-voiced contemporaries, but adds enough of her own ethereal sound to the bluesy pianos and synths to make things come off all her own. "Heartlines" creates moods that are just as stirring and bracing, though it does so by playing up more electronic components and atmospheric synths than elsewhere on Ceremonials. Most remarkable--and least expected--of all, though, is the Britpoppy "Breaking Down", which almost sounds like something you'd expect from the mid-`90s heyday of Pulp and Suede than anything else. Maybe it's not as harrowing and imposing as some of the other tracks, but "Breaking Down" more than makes up for it with its strut and swagger, as Welch shows off her range as a performer by playing up the attitude, shifting from creepy grumbling that might make Jarvis Cocker proud to brashly delivered lines à la Brett Anderson.
Sure, there are those moments on Ceremonials when Welch's exuberance gets the better of her, especially the over-the-top "Say my name" refrain on "Spectrum", or her flights-of-fancy are a little too in her head, like on the opener "Only If for Tonight". But ultimately, what makes Welch the artist that she is is that she's her own hardest-to-please critic, as the yearning, searching tone of "All This and Heaven" suggests when she explains that what she wants to express exceeds the grasp of her own skills and words: "And the words are all escaping / And coming back all damaged / And I would put them back in poetry / If I only knew how and I can't seem to understand it." In the end, though, these lines from "All This and Heaven" smack of either false modesty or an overachieving perfectionist streak. And even if you were so inclined to take Welch at her word, it only means that the future somehow has even more in store for Florence and the Machine, since the sentiments on Ceremonials sound enough like poetry to prove that she understands how and what she's doing pretty well as it is.
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