Florence and the Machine
Ceremonials


4.5
superb

Review

by Keelan H. EMERITUS
November 3rd, 2011 | 173 replies | 33,729 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist


Well now, if Lungs isn’t the perfect debut for Florence Welch and her machines, then I don’t know what is. Perfect, that is, because of its imperfections. To explain my seemingly circular argument, I would like to invoke the “Funeral Rule”: Arcade Fire’s debut was too good. The Fire’s subsequent releases, despite being excellent, have all fallen victim to Funeral’s legacy. So really what I mean when I say that Lungs was a perfect debut album is that Lungs was a perfect debut album for Ceremonials. Where Lungs offered us some great songs, it left enough room for us to think “what if?” That essential question is a weighty one for many artists--how do I follow this up? It’s a question about cashing in on potential, and many a promising artist has squandered this opportunity, especially in the fickle indie world. Luckily Florence and the Machine exists outside of the land of Cyclops and in the mainstream; the band just has that universal appeal that gets everyone bobbing their head and singing along and, y’know, enjoying the music.

And so what is the answer to that question? Does Florence and Machine cash in on the potential that Lungs provided? Well it only takes two songs, including the brilliant first single “Shake It Out” to realize that the answer is a resounding “hell yes.” These songs rollick much in the same way that Bat for Lashes’ “Glass” stampeded through the opening gates of Two Suns a few years back. “Only if for a Night” rip-roars out of the gate with rolling tom drums just like “Glass,” without the gleam of 80’s pastiche. No, because Florence here sounds in a league of her own. And it’s a sound that is continued throughout these twelve tracks, and part of the impressiveness of Ceremonials is the amount of quality control. This brand of pop music has a history of not translating well into a full LP; the quality of singles often greatly outweighs the “filler” that makes up the rest of the record. But Florence and the Machine hardly ever dip into “filler” territory--each song has an air of carefulness about it, each composition magnificently layered to sound as big as possible.

It seems to be the theme of the year, grandiosity, as M83 have already proven how there is no such thing as “too big.” Florence apparently took this to heart because there’s no accosting at how absolutely huge these songs are. Call it neo-Humanism if you will; in a world that seems crumbling more and more each day, Florence wants to shout everything from the rafters. “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is cliché enough, but dammit if it just sounds absolutely uplifting next to that stuttering, pounding drum beat in “Shake It Out,” easily the best pop song of 2011. It’s poptimism at its finest. And it breathes throughout the record--and though that may be tiresome at times but nothing ever stalls, it may stumble slightly in parts, but it never flat out fails.

It never fails because even when trying to sound so big all the time, room is left for just enough variety. The subtly lovely “Breaking Down” moves in and out of major and minor chords to great effect; closer “Leave My Body” has just the right amount of nuance to make it feel like an album closer (there is nothing worse than ending an album and thinking “wait, is that it?”); and “What the Water Gave Me” allows an eerie atmosphere to back an otherwise well-crafted pop song. And while Welch’s voice may seem decadent, the decadence never sacrifices the effect of the album, and more often than not it enhances it. The more ornamental touches of her vocals blend wonderfully well with the rest of the bells and whistles: harps, piano, strings, upright accordion (seriously “Shake It Out” is just too good). All the while the songs are propelled by the ever-present drumming.

Ceremonials has a pulse, it’s an adrenaline rush of pure pop song-craft. Forget Lady Gaga, Adele, or Coldplay; 2011’s year-in-pop belongs solely to Florence and the Machine. If Lungs was the welcome parade onto the big stage, Ceremonials kicks everyone else off that stage. While those other acts have all produced some great songs this year, none of them touch the consistency that Florence Welch has composed here. Ceremonials is truly one of the few recent pop LPs that works both as a collection of individual songs and as a true album, with the right balance and flow to keep the record captivating from start to finish. And look, no stupid transparent egg needed!



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Comments:Add a Comment 
thebhoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ugh BLACK DIAMONDS. Slow site is making it hard to edit. I will fix though.


AND WHOA A FLURRY OF ACTIVITY FROM ME

SowingSeason
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



14511 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

nice review, although I think this has at least 3 songs better than shake it out

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

seriously though, Sputnik get your act together, I love dashes too much for you to keep shrouding them in a Replacements song

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sowing, that is false, Shake It Out is mah JAM yo

Gyromania
November 3rd 2011



14647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

There are a few typos here, like this:

Well now, if Lungs isn’t the perfect debut for Florence Welch and her machines, than I don’t know what is.

then*. Anyways, this will definitely replace mine on the front page, but it's probably for the best. Great work, man.

SowingSeason
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



14511 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

She just wishes she was Andy Hull man

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2011



30295 Comments


'bout time

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah I'm simultaneously writing a Japanese history essay so my editing was pretty quick. When the site will let me edit this thing I will, probs tomorrow

feanaro
November 3rd 2011



793 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that 3.8 is a travesty.

someguest
November 3rd 2011



18876 Comments


She just wishes she was Andy Hull man


made my brother listen to Hull and the gang tonight

I don't know about this release. I'll probably check it out.

Digging: BABYMETAL - Babymetal

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

some of the critics reviews for this is a travesty

Gyromania
November 4th 2011



14647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, they sure are. I'm pretty disappointed at how this is being received by certain critics.

Knott-
Emeritus
November 4th 2011



10193 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

awesome review

you called "Only If For A Night" "If Only For A Night" though babe

Gyromania
November 4th 2011



14647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Also, we both referenced Bat For Lashes in our reviews, so high five, Keelan :P

klap
Staff Reviewer
November 4th 2011



9996 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

OH YEAH.

toxin.
November 4th 2011



11807 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This review was awesome. I really want to give this another shot because of it.
Consider yourself mind pos'ed

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 4th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks! And thanks for the editing catches guys, I'll fix tomorrow

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
November 4th 2011



20807 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Well worth the wait Keelan... I'm so excited to hear this now just because of some key words you use: "huge", "pop" & "drumming".

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
November 4th 2011



16125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album, but unlike Lungs, there are some somewhat forgettable tracks on here.

Ire
November 4th 2011



41453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah i have to agree



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