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Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 10
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 9
Production 9
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 90%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.63
Musicianship 9.04
Lyrics 9.04
Production 8.83
Creativity 8.33
Lasting Value 8.71
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Average: 87%
Inside AP.net

Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials

Reviewed by: Broden Terry (11/29/11)
Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials
Record Label: Island Records
Release Date: October 28th, 2011

For me personally, the finest and most memorable records are those that are able to resonate with their listener in both a personal and emotional capacity; records containing a vast collection of songs that effortlessly transport you to entirely unique and unfamiliar surroundings, where the artist subtly encourages you to delve into every individual metaphorical lyric, assess each chord pattern and key change as it happens in order to understand the underlying mood of a song, and only then after drawing the audience in can listeners begin to wander within an hour-long musical induced environment that an album the caliber of Florence and the Machine's Ceremonials is able to swiftly conjure. Whilst there's no denying the commercial success of 2009's breakthrough debut full-length Lungs, the amount of unorthodox ideas, sounds and directions the album covered left it lacking elements of cohesiveness. With Ceremonials, however, songwriter and vocalist Florence Welch has shifted dynamics, and instead focused upon constructing thunderous ballads, dark and brooding theatrical undertones, and waves of irresistible harmonies that are as strikingly beautiful as they are stunning.

"Only If For a Night" opens Ceremonials in delightfully anthemic style whilst introducing the first signs of a far moodier and tormented direction to be imminently explored. Purposeful yet sporadic piano keys flutter into the mix, setting the scene for Welch to deliver a vulnerable rendition of the opening verse. By the time the bridge seamlessly entwines with the beginning of a flamboyant, passionately delivered chorus, there's already cascading harps, pulsating tambourines, layers of vocals piled atop of one another to create numerous high-rising harmonies, and exuberant amounts of heavily compressed reverb assisting in generating a powerful and equally compelling narrative. Lyrically, the track touches upon the topic of death and features a startling sense of spirituality as Welch sings about having tragically lost somebody so dear and so close to her. The track itself is saturated in sadness and copious amounts of relatability, resulting in "If Only For a Night" obtaining a sense of sorrowful beauty that very few tracks are able to possess.


"And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around
All of these questions, such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm going to bury that horse in the ground."

- Shake It Out


As Welch's whispered falsetto waltzes into proceedings to signal the arrival of lead single, "Shake It Out", there are already church organs carrying an air of solemnity within the background. There are brief tantalizing moments where it seems the songstress is utterly contempt to wound herself with her own poetic lyrics as she confesses with a rare moment of hesitation and a slight unmistakable quiver in her voice, "I've been a fool and I've been blind", but from there onwards the track radiates a palpable sense of euphoria and empowerment, as is best exemplified when Welch cries out emphatically, "I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope / it's a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat / 'cause looking for heaven, for the devil in me / well, what the hell, I'm going to let it happen to me". The chorus is absolutely enormous, celebratory and stirring, Welch's vocals soar with unmitigated conviction, and the ever present backing harmonies provide a breathtaking and rather haunting presence throughout the track's five minute duration.

Inspired by the death of Virginia Woolf and the artistic paintings from Frieda Kahlo, "What The Water Gave Me" comes across as a drowning narrative spread over five minutes of glazed keyboards and pulsating swells of percussion. The opening three minutes of the track lull the listener into a false sense of security, for the vocals never once rise above a softly delivered lament. However, as the track progresses, every snare beat that rings out is rendered a little more urgent and frenetic than the last, more vocal layers are added to the chorus in order to give the impression that a choir is only moments away from erupting chaotically in unison. Finally, belatedly, any semblance of restraint is tossed aside as Welch sneers with a new uncompromising sense of aggression, "They took your loved ones, but returned them in exchange for you / but would you have it any other way? / you couldn't have it any other way".


"You want a revelation, you want to get it right
But it's a conversation I just can't have tonight
You want a revelation, some kind of resolution
You want a revelation..."

- No Light, No Light


The most immediately striking track on the release, the breathtakingly grandiose gem, "No Light, No Light" opens with wailing instrumentation and the haunting hymns of a dozen pre-recorded voices harmonizing in flawless fashion. Orchestral sweeps, fluctuating piano notes and theatrical undertones propel the track forwards until it eventually blossoms magnificently during the most infectious, sing-along and hook-laden chorus Ceremonials has to offer. Musically and vocally the track exudes utter strength, but as Welch pleads with vulnerability etched into her every word, "I'd do anything to make you stay / tell me what you want me to say", it becomes quite clear that the frontwoman has succumbed to her knees in despair. Just when it appears the track is drawing to its inaudible conclusion, suddenly and unexpectedly the thunderous voices of the choir reappear out of nowhere, giving Welch just enough time and spirit to sing and orchestrate one final rendition of the chorus as strings begin to wane under intense pressure, "No light, no light, in your bright blue eyes / I never knew daylight could be so violent / a revelation in the light of day / you can't choose what stays and what fades away". It's destined to be an immediate commercial hit and album highlight.

Alas, as tremendous as the album undoubtedly is, when a record has a duration of sixty minutes and every song is built to sound as relentless and enormous as it possibly can, it's worth mentioning that listeners may potentially suffer from anthem fatigue. Although there are some welcome moments where the band attempts to shake things up, such as the downright dark and hypnotic, "Seven Devils" and the tribal drumbeats and stunning chorus of "Heartlines". Yet another album highlight comes in the form of the lyrically candid and thought-provoking, "All This and Heaven Too", which sees Welch struggle with unanswerable, rhetorical questions regarding her ineptitude to grasp the difficult concept of love.


"And the words are all escaping
Come back all damaged
I would put them back in poetry
If I only knew how"


- All This and Heaven Too


Sometimes there are albums that seemingly come out of nowhere and hit you so ferociously that you feel compelled to write fifteen hundred words on an album release solely because you love it, you adore it, and you want to share it with anyone who will listen, appreciate, and live inside the world an album can conjure, only to return not long after. Maybe fifteen hundred words is overkill? Maybe the length will alienate a large majority of readers? Regardless, there are frequent exquisite moments to be heard and explored throughout Ceremonials, Florence Welch has one of the finest and most stunning deliveries in the music business, and every track tells its own unique story. As one of the last big album releases to close out 2011, it's highly fitting that Ceremonials should be considered perhaps the most beautiful and absorbing of them all.

Recommended If You LikeAdele, Lady Gaga, Kate Bush

Additional Information1. 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
13. Remain Nameless (Bonus Track)
14. Strangeness and Charm (Bonus Track)
15. Bedroom Hymns (Bonus Track)
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Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 21
06:28 AM on 11/29/11
#2
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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Just a forewarning, this might be one of my last reviews for the website so you guys needn't have to worry about outrageously lengthy reviews nearly as much. Also, I've probably managed to slip in a few unnecessary commas and such. You'll have to forgive me because it's nearly 2am and I'm exhausted.

Why is the review so long? I feel that if an artist works tirelessly on an album for three years; if they have a hand in writing, recording, producing, mixing, mastering and sequencing their work, then at the very least they deserve something in-depth. If I didn't give them that, I may as well go write for AMG.
07:25 AM on 11/29/11
#3
Steve Alcala
"Counting Fish"
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Just a forewarning, this might be one of my last reviews for the website so you guys needn't have to worry about outrageously lengthy reviews nearly as much. Also, I've probably managed to slip in a few unnecessary commas and such. You'll have to forgive me because it's nearly 2am and I'm exhausted.

Why is the review so long? I feel that if an artist works tirelessly on an album for three years; if they have a hand in writing, recording, producing, mixing, mastering and sequencing their work, then at the very least they deserve something in-depth. If I didn't give them that, I may as well go write for AMG.
Great review, the more in depth, the better
08:04 AM on 11/29/11
#4
Henry Ferreira
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Great job, man. The more spontaneous the better, and again, the more in-depth, the better.

Relax, man. You know, just keep following the heartlines on your hand.

PS: I wanted to review it, but you were quicker I guess :D
08:12 AM on 11/29/11
#5
Quijiba
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This was definitely super long but it was well written. Although I read it in 2 sittings it got me to check out the album. So job well done
08:33 AM on 11/29/11
#6
Dre Okorley
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Very well written review.
09:10 AM on 11/29/11
#7
Caleb Cabrera
gooby pls
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Simply amazing.

On a somber note, why you leaving?
10:25 AM on 11/29/11
#8
Goat01
No Retreat, No Regrets.
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She's incredible.
12:39 PM on 11/29/11
#9
Matty Ice
Matty Y
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Might be my favorite album of the year.
12:45 PM on 11/29/11
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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Great job, man. The more spontaneous the better, and again, the more in-depth, the better.

Relax, man. You know, just keep following the heartlines on your hand.

PS: I wanted to review it, but you were quicker I guess :D

I love that line and just the manner in which Florence delivers it. You can review it as well though, user reviews and differing opinions are always welcome, my friend.

This was definitely super long but it was well written. Although I read it in 2 sittings it got me to check out the album. So job well done

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to read it. I hope you love it equally as much as I do.

Simply amazing.

On a somber note, why you leaving?

Definitely, the album is gorgeous. As to why I'm leaving, it depends on my numerous other commitments. I just can't seem to balance everything that I want to do and still write regularly.
02:09 PM on 11/29/11
Spenny
Hearts without chains.
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You can't stop writing for AP.net after this. Incredible review man, perhaps one of my favourite reviews I've read on the site all year.

The album itself is just phenomenal. Album of the year for me, no questions asked. Even the three bonus tracks + the Landscape demo are brilliant.
02:24 PM on 11/29/11
abandonship
my lazy bones ache for a tearing
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love this album
02:37 PM on 11/29/11
xapplexpiex
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I never heard much by her till my girlfriend made me listen to this cd with her. I love it.
02:41 PM on 11/29/11
jbwillisfan
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I just finished listening to this after your review. i'm blown away. seriously this is fantastic.
04:35 PM on 11/29/11
Henry Ferreira
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You can't stop writing for AP.net after this. Incredible review man, perhaps one of my favourite reviews I've read on the site all year.

The album itself is just phenomenal. Album of the year for me, no questions asked. Even the three bonus tracks + the Landscape demo are brilliant.

Yeah man, you shouldn't really leave after a review that splendid...

Oh, the BTs and demos may be the best part of the album!
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