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Ceremonials (2CD Deluxe Edition) - Florence + the Machine

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Genre: Indie Rock & Punk / Artist: Florence + the Machine / Deluxe Edition / Audio CD released 2011-10-31 at Island

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      29.01.2013 09:00
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      Second album from Florence + The Machine

      Florence Welch aka Florence + The Machine released her second album Ceremonials in autumn 2011, the follow-up to 2009's Lungs. As a convert to her music, I was excited about the album's release and bought it almost straight away, in the deluxe edition with a bonus CD. Ceremonials is both a natural successor to Lungs and a different-sounding album.

      Where Lungs evoked grassy meadows and long midsummer days, Ceremonials is altogether colder, with a haunting atmosphere, pure sounding vocals and darker lyrics. Album opener Only If For a Night sounds almost Christmassy, with bells and an echoing sound as if it was recorded in a cold empty church. No Light, No Light is a dramatic, catchy and sweeping anthem, while Seven Devils is a haunting track with low, sinister vocals from Florence ("I'll be dead before the day is done") and a chilling piano melody.

      There is a watery theme that runs through the album. First single What the Water Gave Me was written about Virginia Woolf's suicide; Florence sings about filling her "pockets full of stones" and sinking into the water. Beautiful ballad Never Let Me Go, my favourite track, is sung softly with resignation; again, Florence sings about being underwater, being held by the "arms of the ocean". It strikes me as being about suicide, or possibly baptism; even both. There is an underwater-sounding quality to many of the songs on the CD, though others have an echoing, churchy quality.

      The theme of the church is another that can be recognised throughout the album. Though not explicitly religious, several songs make use of spiritual images or ideas, such as the aforementioned devils in Seven Devils and Shake It Out and the ballad All This and Heaven Too. In the closing track, Leave My Body, Florence sings of "moving up to higher ground": the whole CD seems to be about letting go and moving on, letting go of the physical and embracing the spiritual. Several songs sound like hymns or anthems: the repetitive chant of Heartlines is addictive, and Shake It Out, another album highlight, makes use of strong drums, harmonies and an organ to produce a sound that is almost funereal but with an uplifting, unearthly quality.

      The album as a whole has a darker tone than Lungs. Only If For a Night has a wistful, nostalgic quality as Florence sings about the ghost of someone she loved. The references to suicide and escaping oneself in What the Water Gave Me and Never Let Me Go speak for themselves, and even the more uptempo tracks are somewhat dark. "There's no salvation for me now, no more space among the clouds" Florence sings on the eighties pop-sounding Lover to Lover, while on Breaking Down, which has an uptempo cheery beat, she talks about her "old familiar friends", which sound rather sinister. Spectrum, on the other hand, combines Florence's trademark sound with a dance beat, her strong vocals adding power to the song.

      There are a number of good songs on the bonus disc, including three new songs. Remain Nameless is a softly-sung haunting ballad, while Strangeness and Charm (which was released as a live version on the Between Two Lungs bonus disc) is a more uptempo effort with typical Florence dramatic vocals and handclaps. Bedroom Hymns is the song that sounds closest to Florence' new style, with an echoing, churchlike atmosphere.

      Two demos are included on the CD, one being What the Water Gave Me, which is included on the album proper in its fully-produced state. This version sounds more 'poppy' and dance-influenced than the finished version. Landscape is a song that didn't make it onto the album, but it's a good track, surprisingly restrained for Florence.

      Three album tracks are included here as acoustic versions: Heartlines, Shake It Out and Breaking Down. It is interesting to hear these songs in their stripped-down, softer form and different aspects of the songs come out when heard in this way.

      Ceremonials is more coherent and polished than Lungs. While there are several standout tracks on the former album, on the whole I do prefer this one. The otherworldly, spiritual quality of the music is fantastic and I find myself listening to it a great deal. If you are a Florence fan I definitely recommend the deluxe edition of the album as the songs are a nice bonus.

      *Track Listing*
      Main Album
      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

      Bonus Disc
      1. Remain Nameless
      2. Strangeness and Charm
      3. Bedroom Hymns
      4. What the Water Gave Me [Demo]
      5. Landscape [Demo]
      6. Heartlines [Acoustic]
      7. Shake It Out [Acoustic]
      8. Breaking Down [Acoustic]

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    • More +
      20.05.2012 18:27
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      By far my favourite release of 2011. Cannot be recommended highly enough!

      I believe that the beginning of an album always seems to set the tone for the rest of it. Only If For A Night starts as it intends to continue: sounding beautifully massive, but not the norm. Instead of playing it safe and aiming for more popular success, Florence Welch and her talented machine have expanded on the experimentation and huge sound of the debut album, Lungs. There are a lot of impressive vocal moments on this album, as well as the refreshingly unusual instrument choices (such as church organs and Tom Monger on harp). It's by no means a simple mass-produced pop record, as the vocal lines are delivered with such passion, depth and emotion. The sheer quantity of layers hidden deep in this record only becomes clear after months of daily listens, which keeps me coming back for more and more. Another thing worth noting is Paul Epworth's production on the album, as everything sits perfectly in its space and I consider it to be the best mixing I have heard on any album. It is an extremely consistent album also. On the Deluxe Edition, a track called Landscapes only appears as a demo, but it's easily up to the standard of the tracks on the first disc. A few songs didn't grab my attention on the first few listens, such as Breaking Down and Seven Devils, but they grew on me and are now among my favourites.

      If you enjoyed Lungs, you're in for a treat. I would definitely recommend this album.

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      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

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