Florence + The Machine’s “Ceremonials”

“Ceremonials is a decidedly joyous album, but it is not without its dark moments” -Jordan Welsh

Jordan Welsh

out of 10

Florence + The Machine
November 1, 2011

The world is seemingly obsessed with a good voice. Rightfully so. Someone who can flawlessly belt out notes across multiple octaves is seriously skilled and deserves to be noticed. Florence + The Machine’s Florence Welch is such a singer. Since she burst into the world of music stardom in 2009 with “Lungs”, Welch has been wowing fans worldwide with her powerful vocal. The Machine has been nothing to frown upon either — a band of highly skilled musicians who set the table for Welch’s voice to mesmerize all who listen. On Florence + The Machine’s newest release “Ceremonials”, one can expect nothing less than a clinic in musicianship, and most importantly: a brilliant vocalist who shines throughout.

“Ceremonials” is a step forward for Florence + The Machine. The English songstress’ previous release could be summed up by two songs: “Dog Days are Over” and “You’ve Got The Love.” The main complaint I had with that album was the lack of truly great songs. I mean, they were good, just not great. What we get with “Ceremonials” is an album of more than two great, memorable songs. Each and every song is quite accessible–almost to a fault considering the very basic chord structure and instrumentation in “Never Let Me Go.” Yet, songs like “Only For A Night” and “Shake it out” are incredibly easy on the ear and still manage to be creative in structure, vocal melody, and musicianship. All in all, the songwriting in “Ceremonials” teeters on the line between cliché and groundbreaking, but leans toward the latter.

For the most part, “Ceremonials” is a joyous album. Catchy, upbeat vocal melodies abound throughout this record. Take for instance, “Shake it Out.” Written after a night of heavy drinking and during a terrible hangover; Welch sings (in an almost jubilant manner) about picking yourself up and carrying on after hard times. The rather cheerful themes also carry over in to the instrumentation of the album. Not just your typical guitar, bass, and drums type of band — The Machine is comprised of orchestral instruments, things not normally heard in many popular albums today. Even the selection of instruments throughout adds to the liveliness of the record.

While “Ceremonials” is more upbeat and joyous than “Lungs”, it is not without its dark moments. “Seven Devils” is just as dark as its name suggests. Disturbing lyrics such as “Holy water cannot help you now” and “I’ll be dead before the day is done” are sung in haunting fashion over music equally as eerie. This same satanic (if you will) theme even carries over in to the video for “Shake it Out.” When asked about the music video in an interview Welch said the video exhibits “ritualistic and sort of satanic undertones and séances.”

The deciding factor that makes “Ceremonials” a great album is where Florence + The Machine has always been at its greatest: Florence Welch’s vocal prowess. It is no secret, this girl can sing. Vocals soar in songs like “No Light, No Light”, but then back off in to a soft, subtle whisper at the beginning “Spectrum” just to come right back again later in the song to amaze the listener.

The fiery British red-head, Florence Welch, has come forth with another solid recording effort. Her “Machine” has simply outdone themselves as well — showcasing a truly incredible amount of talent across a vast array of instruments. “Ceremonials” is a decidedly joyous album, but it is not without its dark moments. Yet again, Welch gives us a solid album that very well shows off her vocal talents. In short, this is a must-have album.

-Jordan Welsh, October 31, 2011