Branden del Rio
Editor in Chief
Describing Florence + The Machine’s “Ceremonials” as a mixture of strangeness and charm would be far too easy.
The album takes what made the band’s 2009 debut, “Lungs” a success, Welch’s billowy voice laid over disenchanted gospel music, and refines it to the point of near-perfection.
“Ceremonials” is bigger, brighter and filled with more melodrama.
Welch and the band teamed up with producer Paul Epworth, hot off his success with Adele’s “21,” to create an album filled with polished tracks with hints of R&B, gospel and ‘60s pop.
Lyrically Welch has grown. On “All this This and Heaven Too,” she laments over the fact that she cannot find the words to describe her feelings, but the song is so well-written that the listener has a hard time believing this is true.
She also expands on her own mythos. She further explores her fascination with drowning in the standout track “Never Let Me Go.”
“Looking up from underneath/ fractured moonlight on the sea/ reflections still look the same to me as before I went under/ and it’s peaceful in the deep/ cathedral where you cannot breathe/ no need to pray/ no need to speak/ now I am under.”
In an interview with NME Welch stated that her obsession with drowning began at 17 years old.
“I think it comes from being in love for the first time … I remember falling in love with this boy … I had to go on a family holiday for two weeks. I spent the entire time sat at the bottom of the swimming pool screaming at the top of my voice. I just wanted to be somewhere that completely encapsulated me where I could just thrash and scream,” Welch said in the article.
“Ceremonials” has the same encapsulating effect on the listener. They are caught in the powerful reverb of Welch’s voice, wrapped by the percussion-heavy beats and enveloped by colossal organ and harp instrumentations, when the harp is present.
The harp is used less on the new album and is only featured heavily on the opening track “Only If for a Night,” and used differently in songs such as “Lungs” and “Cosmic Love.”
The absence of the harp from the foreground of most songs takes “Ceremonials” from their spacey atmosphere and pulls them back down to earth with heavy drum beats, even some that verge on tribal.
“Remain Nameless” has a drumbeat that is similar to the steady pounding of a heart that swells as the song comes to a close and Welch shouts “Call me when you need me!”
Even on slow tempo tracks like “Breaking Down” where Welch’s voice is an airy whisper, the track still translates into a howling cry.
Perhaps the strongest track on this album is the single “Shake It Out,” which attempts to emulate the feel-good vibes of the group’s breakout single “Dog Days Are Over.”
In the song Welch acknowledges “it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back” but encourages listeners to “shake him off.”
Although the song is filled with clichés like “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and “damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” it still comes off as a sincere song about escaping someone’s demons and leaving dark days behind.
The album cover captures the themes of the album well. It features clean lines and an elegant pose of Welch leaning against a mirror, where as the “Lungs” album cover is hectic and disjointed and Welch’s lungs are exposed.
The deluxe edition comes with an acoustic version of the album’s first single, “What the Water Gave Me” and the international version comes with four other bonus tracks including a demo of the unreleased “Landscapes.”
Branden del Rio can be reached at email@example.com.