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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. 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.
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. Highly recommended from me.
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
11. All This and Heaven Too
12. Leave My Body
The enchanting flame haired songstress of indie/pop returns with her second album "ceremonials".
I was a little dubious about the release of this album, mostly because I loved her debut "Lungs" so much and didn't want to be disappointed. I had little to worry about though, as Florence bursts back into the public eye with another fantastic collection of spellbinding songs!
But I must admit, although I absolutely love the album now I was a little nervous after hearing the first song released. "What the Water Gave me" was the first glimpse I got from Ceremonials and I was majorly underwhelmed. Looking back it's (in my opinion) the worst song off of the album and was a poor choice to release as a taster of things to come.
I was completely relieved when I heard "Shake It Out" just a few days later, and could confirm my love for Florence was back! I breathed a further sigh of relief when I bought the album and heard the rest of the songs!
"No Light, No light" & "Spectrum" are cracking tunes and "Never Let Me Go" may be one of the most hauntingly beautiful love songs I've ever heard.
Do I like this album more than her first? No, but it's certainly not a let down, considering her first album was so amazing! It was a hard one to follow and I think she's done a fantastic job.
It's the perfect follow up to "Lungs" and Queen Florence of Machines continues her reign.
Florence + The Machine :Ceremonials is the second studio album from the Indie rock and punk band Florence and the machine.The standard editions of the album have 12 tracks (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")
and the deluxe UK version has all of the above tracks plus several acoustic extras on a separate disk (1. "Remain Nameless 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) 9."What the Water Gave Me" (video) )
Ceremonials is an excellent album that shows the true ability of Florence as she goes from the more shouty "No Light, No Light" to the more gentle "What The Water Gave Me". She infuses all of her songs with a harp and drums like in Heartlines , and church organs like in "No Light No Light". This creates an almost pagan like sound and a very orchestral effect. I only have the digital and not the CD so I am unable to comment on that factor .
I would recommend this to anyone who has heard Florence in her first album because this makes "Between Two Lungs" seem like a beginning of her career and now Ceremonials shows her voice at it's peak
I'm not sure if I can describe how thrilled I was when I first heard this album. I really enjoyed Florence and the Machine's first album but this one was a step up to absolute brilliance. I have listened to it absolutely numerous times since, and it stays just as enjoyable.
Only If for a Night isn't the strongest opener but sets the scene for some of the themes of the album such as loss and water. It is haunting and passionate, building to a gorgeous cacophony that melts away into the sound of church bells.
It paves the way for the utterly brilliant and exhilarating Shake it Out. Growing from a quiet beginning into the stunning chorus, it is deceptively simple but it gets right under your skin, will have your heart beating faster and fill you with pure joy.
The darker and magical What the Water Gave Me completely encompasses you. It's theme is drowning and does give you the musical equivalent of being swept away in a current. Again there is a fantastic chorus, a wonderfully textured swirl of vocals, and really showing off the technical brilliance of Florence Welch's voice.
Never Let Me Go starts gently, with the feel of staring at a still calm lake and draws you in to a delicate embrace. A song that is very much driven by the vocals accompanied by simple chords and barely any drums, it soars and floats gracefully in the most beautifully dreamy way.
Breaking Down is musically very distinct from the rest of the album sounding more like Arcade Fire. Which of course, means it is yet another brilliant song! It has an orchestral pop feel, and is probably the warmest (almost cosiest) track on the album, despite at the same time having undercurrents of loneliness and retaining some of Florence's usual gothic style. It is a hard mesh to pull off, but it is done wonderfully well.
Lover to Lover is another exhilarating display of vocal ability as well as being a fantastically joyous and immediate song. It has a more classic feel to it with it's simple bass and piano and catchy chorus.
No Light, No Light is a trademark gothic spectacular. Starting out as a hazy, dreamily harmonic vocal piece, the drums and harps kick in with a bang, it is insistent and powerful with a soaring melody, a song that grows and grows as it goes on, absolutely carrying you into the sky. The chanting, atmospheric climax feels like it should the be the soundtrack to some intense primal religious ritual.
Seven Devils is another tune that makes you feel like you have been swept away in a swirling torrent of water, or caught up in an intense storm. A slowly dark pounding beat and moodily intense piano gives it an air of menace, whilst there is an animal, howling quality to the vocals.
Heartlines also has a primal feeling to it in the stark drums and vocals. This is more of a waterfall than a storm, swooping and falling, with a rush of intensity and stunning harmonies.
Spectrum is another of the truly euphoric songs on the album. Starting quietly and building up through the vocals, when the beat kicks in you can almost feel it fill your whole body. The chorus is joyful and angelic, with a real gospel influence and feel to them, followed by an almost disco sounding bridge, which just shows there are few genres that Florence can't mix into her music, whilst still staying true to herself.
The harps and gorgeous melody of All This and Heaven Too make this one of the lightest and brightest songs on the album. You can almost smell summer whilst listening to it, it is so full of sunshine. There is a hopefulness and yearning to it that makes it contrast to the darkness of much of the rest of the album.
Leave My Body starts in another soulful swirl of harmony, with the soul theme continuing with the call-and response type vocals, contrasting with punchy drums. The songs grows in intensity, with its driving rhythm and multi part harmonies before gradually dropping layer upon layer and returning to a final hazy white noise of vocals.
The album is viscerally evocative, dark, dreamy, euphoric, magical, gothic, haunting, joyful, intense and hypnotic, often at the same time. It is one that fills your brain and heart with images, mostly of the darkest and wildest pictures of nature. I hope I have gone some way to capturing what a brilliant album this is and would recommend it to anyone to try. I'm off to buy a thesaurus so I can do Florence's next album justice!
In July 2009 a brand new 5-piece outfit rose onto the scene of British indie music; bringing with her style of indie rock that was soulful and arrested the senses both musically and visually (with influences such as Bjork,Pj Harvey, The Horrors and Bat For Lashes becoming present on every track). The South-East London born artist took the current music style in 2009 and added her own quirky life experiences of death/beauty and art to create this psychedelic image for her band to build their success upon.
The Cosmic queen and her band "The Machine" released their first album "Lungs" back into 2009 with the singles " Rabbit-heart" and the bands cover of "You Got The Love" topping the UK singles chart. The band instantly rose to success, winning countless awards and being nominated for the prestigious "Mercury Prize" Award.
The first time I heard Florence Welch sing I was roaming around on spottily trying to find some new music to listen to, I came across the bands cover of the "Cold War Kids" song "Hospital Beds" and must have listened to it over and over again that day:if you've never heard this song then i'd say go NOW and listen....it's amazing! Then the band released "Lungs" every single song grabbed me and gave me a shake. The album was a lot to take in at the start; it slapped you with one hand and then cuddled you with the other. With every song creating this illusion of energy and her heart-felt vocals instantly stopping you cold. It was the perfect album to listen to on those summer nights; that was until Radio stations and Tv networks had slowly started to ruin the album by blaring out everyday 24/7.
I wanted to write a specific section about her as a live artist, because I think an album will only take an artist so far, they need to be able to back up their music; otherwise musicians would just be 13year old kids playing with music software in their bedrooms. I was lucky enough to see Florence and the Machine three times in the past 3 years. Aside from festivals and concerts around the UK I even made the effort to travel all the way to valencia with some friends to watch her perform. I can honestly say that was one of the most special and intimate gigs i've ever been too. There was about 100 people in the room, wall to wall bars and the crowd was simply electric all night long, if you've never made that leap and gone to see a concert abroad; i'd definitely say it's something worth trying at least once in your life.
So with the critically acclaimed album "Lungs" Florence had set the bar high for herself and many critics had worried that she may fall into the trap of not being able to follow up with her second album. I also worried that with the amount Radio 1 had played her music over the past two years; she wouldn't have any fans left and everyone would be sick of her by now! Was she just another artist that made an album that had followed a musical trend and once the trend had faded away so would she? So we waited in anticipation and one day there it was; "Ceremonials" on my doorstep. So how did it compare, was it worth the wait?
The album kicks off with the song "Only For a Night". The song draws you in instantly with it's melodic rhythm and beautiful piano sections that surround you. From the start the sound on this album is completely different from that of "Lungs"; It has this eerie dark tone to it with flickers of magical instrumental notes. Florence's vocals are amazing as always sedating your ears and arresting your senses. The song is has a nice pace which is held by the beat and really gives you a chance to take everything in. The atmospheric sound really creates the perfect intro for the album, the contrast of these long deep rhythm sections combined with her soaring vocals really works well; I have a feeling there is going to be some serious competition in the album charts this year!
The song "Shake it out" is more of an upbeat track, it picks you up from the last song with it's catchy rhythm and more drum intense sections. The kind of song you want to listen to on the train first thing in the morning to pick your spirits up. The song introduces us to this organ sound that features a lot more in her later songs. The sound of the church organ and choir-like vocals helps the song build into the chorus and creates a song with quite a big sound. I say choir-like, don't run a mile! You hardly notice because it blends perfectly with the rhythm in the rest of the song; and it also fits well with the lyrically theme of the devil. I seriously love her vocals on this song, it's like every time she belts out the high notes you feel like your sat there going through the experience with her.
At this point in the album you start to notice a theme of one dark song one up beat song; an unusual arrangement of tracks but it does hold your attention quite well. By far one of my most favourite tracks on the album is "What The Water Gave Me". The song starts with this twisting string sound which is fantastic, it's so creepy but creates this amazing and unique sound. Lyrically this song is excellent, after a few listens you'll be singing along everywhere you go; so god damn catchy!! Her vocals ease into the song that allow the organ and bass to build up perfectly into the chorus. The song then picks up tempo and you half expect her to begin belting out the verse, but the song takes a different turn and keeps to the slow paced vocals; which just makes you even more ready for the intense build-up. The song slows down into some guitar palm muting and a really nice melodic xylophone sounds as the beat builds up....bam, there she goes with the brooding chorus that sounds ten times as loud as the first time round; from there on out it's like a hurricane of sound hitting your ears.
The next song " Never Let Me Go" is more personal and heart-felt, the heart-felt vocals really help break the album quite a bit. Musically the beat is simpler with the louder string section providing the perfect platform for her to sing her heart out. This song isn't as soft as i'd like it to be, I feel like i'm really missing the quitter more emotional tracks that "Lungs" gave us. And I can't help but feel like in parts the song is loud vocally just for the sake of it; just because you sing a lyrics loudly doesn't mean it instantly contains more emotion. It's not a bad song, it just sounds to big to listen to on a cd.
"Breaking Down" is somewhat of a marmite track and personally I don't really like it; mainly because the intro rhythm annoys me a little bit. The string and drum sections in the song create this unusual atmosphere; something that worked perfectly in previous songs but just doesn't in this one. This strangeness in the melody makes it really hard for you to enjoy the song, I definitely think this is one of the weaker songs on the album; and feels like a filler track. It's the kind of song that might accompany a David lynch film as the soundtrack.
"Lover to Lover" brings us right back on track and keeps the album going with it's 1950's piano rhythm and soulful sound. Florence's soothing powerful voice enters and reminds us why were listening to her album and not anyone else's. The chorus breaks out into a catchy upbeat rhythm which lyrics that could have been hand-picked from a modern-day church choir; once again reminding us why the album is called "Ceremonials".
With the organ setting the scene for this atmospheric feeling of romance, the trickling xylophone leads up to the chorus for "No Light, No Light', which reminds me slightly of "Blinding" from the previous album. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the video for this track claiming that it somehow has racist overtones. I can honestly say this is absolute rubbish; even though the video is seriously weird, it makes a statement about good vs evil and black vs white in terms of morality. I think people are clutching at straws to say it's a race thing, anyways I digress. The song has a powerful feel to it, my only issue is this the album is starting to feel more and more like a set of hymns and choir performances than a powerful british indie record.
Finally the song "Seven Devils" brings us right out of our comfort zone with it's evil eerie sound and hounding pianos in the background. The song has this really moody and dramatic feel to it which perfectly clashes with her pure soaring voice. The overall sound is very dark and childlike in melody; similar tones and sounds that you would hear during a horror film. This is definitely my favourite song on the album and really should have been released as the single. It's one of those songs that completely absorbs you and you find yourself zoning in and out during the song. Everything comes together at the end and whole song moves up a notch into this dramatic eclipse of beautiful vocals and intense sound.
The song "Heart-lines" feels a bit out of place on this album, with it's crowd chanting style in the intro and heavy strong drum beat. When the verse comes in the song starts to get better but still remains quite confusing throughout. It's hard to know whats going on with the song; you have moments of atmospheric bliss which are followed by this clapping choir chant and then back into a moody deep style. I like it but I can't work out why.
"Spectrum" is a song for fans from the last album, it has the fast paced tempo of "Drumming Song" with the catchy lyrics of " Rabbit Heart". It has the Dance feel to it, which it nice to hear on an album that becomes a little repetitive at times. I love the lyrics in this song, and the touches of harp strings here and there just top it off.
About this point in the album "All This and Heaven Too" came on and I swear an earlier song had been repeated. I was hoping for something different, something that would give the album that edge. This song didn't do that, it came across like a christmas song; which we have enough of already. It's a nice song, and vocally she does a top notch job as always, but it didn't move me from my seat, it made me want to see what the final track on the album was like.
The final song on album "Leave My Body" was a nice touch and followed suit relating to the album's theme of ceremonies. It felt like the song had taken bits and pieces from every other song on the album and mixed them together into this explosion of powerful sounds. This sound does a great job of rounding the album off and even the musical arrangement creates this sense that the experience she has lead us on has ended.
-------------Some Extra Album Info----------------
Release date: 31-10-2011
Label: Island Records
1. Only For a Night: (4 Stars)
2. Shake It Out: (3 Stars)
3. What The Water Gave Me : (5 Stars)
4. Never Let Me Go: (3 Stars)
5. Breaking Down (3 Stars)
6. Lover To Lover (4 Stars)
7. No light, No light (3 Stars)
8. Seven Devils: (5 Stars)
9. Heartlines (3Stars)
10. Spectrum (4 Stars)
11. All This and Heaven Too (3 Stars)
12. Leave My Body (4Stars)
Itunes (download only): £7.99
On the first listen the album didn't really do much for me, It wasn't bad it just wasn't the"Lungs" album I had previously fallen in love with. Maybe that was the problem I was naively hoping for "Lungs" part II rather than being more open to change with the bands new direction. Lungs came across like it was Florence's chance to get everything off her chest; it was an album of quirky stories and experiences that were quite intimate to her; with this soft magical upbeat atmosphere that came with every track. This album is a lot different and while there are still a few tracks that are upbeat and catchy, the album is more dark, powerful and often romantic. The whole album has this magical eerie tone to it which illustrates her love for terror and doom; it has this though-provoking sense that is more hard-hitting than anything of "Lungs"...musically, not lyrically. The name "Ceremonials" fits perfectly with the songs, but sometimes the Choir-sound and the Loud organs can be a bit too much; I don't think she mixed this album up enough musically and towards the end your attention starts to stray. Every song screams at you like it's to big for the cd, you often feel like you should be in an arena or a concert venue to get the full-throttle of this bands powerful style. Maybe that's my biggest issue with the album, we all know she has an amazing voice and can belt a tune perfectly from a hundred miles away but a softer-slower song can be ten times as powerful and evocative. It's definitely an album that you have to listen to a few times before you love it, but once you start to love it, it'll be hard to put your ipod down.
Generally this is a really good album, it's different from "Lungs" and doesn't follow a musical trend; if you can excuse influences from the likes of "The Horrors" and "Bat for Lashes". I think the album should have possibly been split into two cd's, one with the lighter songs and one with the darker songs, she could have even called the second album "The Dark side". However in saying that this Light/Dark them makes you feel like your battling with good and evil throughout and in the final song you make up your mind which side you choose....this albums definitely makes you think the more you listen too it. The band proved there worth as more than a one-hit wonder and the dent in the face of British music gets deeper by the second.
All in all a fantastic British record than isn't at all a "Lungs" part II, it stands on it's own two feet; and it does it proudly! I'd give this album 4 out of 5 Stars
See you at her summer tour!
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
11 All This And Heaven Too
12 Leave My Body