Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 31, 2012
“Ceremonials” has been one of my favorite albums for quite some time now. When it was released, I knew little about Florence Welch, the face of “the Machine.” I knew she could sing, I knew she was tall, and I knew she had fiery red hair and sort of resembled Tori Amos. I also knew I found her interesting, but I wasn't really sure what that meant. I hadn't heard her debut album, nor had I given much attention to her modest hit “Dog Days Are Over.” All of this was, I would soon discover, my loss.

“Ceremonials” is a body of work that completely transcends everything everyone says or knows or pretends to know about music. It is comparable to the works of Björk, Fiona Apple, and The Who in that way. It occupies a space far beyond reality and transports the listener with full sensory awareness. Put simply, it renders reality irrelevant.

Welch's signature wail is that of a deity calling to arms its worshippers – packed with emotion and a grandiosity not readily seen in this world. The disc is littered with layers of harp and tribal drum and nearly every song contains a full-on choir of backup, which elevates the music to spiritual status and matches with some of its intensely spiritual tracks.

Florence + the Machine primarily explores, through the lens of human relationship and existence, salvation and damnation. On the Aretha-esque “Lover to Lover” she muses, “There's no salvation for me now/No space among the clouds/And I feel I'm headed down/But that's alright.” These thoughts permeate the album. “Seven Devils” uses obvious religious metaphor to condemn a former lover, while “Never Let Me Go” and “What the Water Gave Me” deal with suicide and its aftermath.

The music itself is as big as anything I've heard and must have been a beast to produce. The mammoth walls of sound that back the banshee cry of Welch's alto raise goosebumps and all but alter brain chemistry. Listening is an exorcism in and of itself. “Shake It Out,” possibly the only song ever that deals with both with existentialism and a hangover, is a triumphant exorcism of past demons and an inspirational ­anthem that doesn't sound one bit like one.

Things do get quieter. “Breaking Down” is a jarring and deeply affecting up-tempo that sports incredibly dark lyrics about self-loathing and insecurity, and the excellent “All This and Heaven Too” has vocal parts sung in almost a whisper. Welch is truly a poet. She spins enthralling narratives and creates nearly tangible images, boasting grand metaphor and brutal realism simultaneously. The record is, technically, a knockout. But it's
not about technicality in the slightest.

“Ceremonials” is like that childhood blanket you carry around with you to sleepovers. It brings up questions of the future and makes us look at our past. It speaks to the cosmos and to the individual. Listening to “Ceremonials” has many parallels to Florence's fascination with drowning; it encompasses you … slowly, then all at once. It eventually becomes a part of you, destroying what came before and shaping what comes after.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

xelawriter97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm
I love Florence!!! You described their album perfectly!
XOLovegood said...
Oct. 19, 2012 at 11:24 am
Florence + The Machine is one of my favorite singers. She has pure talent as opposed to most artists these days.
SickImage said...
Oct. 18, 2012 at 2:34 pm
Kiss with a Fist!
NickyJ said...
Oct. 12, 2012 at 12:36 am
I love Florence and the Machine. She's a breath of fresh air in today's pop music (which I do not like at all). Ceremonials is one of my favorite albums and I think you did a great job with this review.

I'm looking forward to her next album.
OutKast said...
Oct. 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm
This review is amazing. I just recently discover Florence + the Machine a couple of weeks ago on a VH1 special and you really captured the meanings of her songs in this review. :)
billgamesh11 said...
Oct. 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm
OMG!!! This is a really amazing review, no one could've summed up  the power of this album like you did! I love Florence and the Machine so much and it's great to see that someone else feels the same way about this album as I do!!! :) Well done!!! :):):);) 
ThatGirlOverthere said...
Oct. 5, 2012 at 10:06 am
Nice article! I'm glad you liked Ceremonials that much! I've been a fan of Florence+the Machine since Lungs, and the best thing about Ceremonials is that is a step-forward without loosing all the qualities that were on Lungs. Ceremonials is a masterpiece. The Deluxe version tracks are also great  ;)
Snow-White-Queen said...
Oct. 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm
Thank you for doing this incredible album justice. Like you, I had never really listened to Florence + The Machine before, but when I heard this album, it changed me. You described the songs with an amazing choice of words, and I think you really captured the feel of it. Great job. :)
dandelion77 replied...
Oct. 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm
Your artitcle is brilliant! I used to listen to RnB, pop and that sort of commercial music before I got into indie. "Never Let Me Go" was the first song I ever hearf by Florence and the Machine and I clearly remember that I thought it way too weird to upload on my phone. However, the lyrics were so amazing and beautiful that I kept listening to it over and over again and soon I was obsessed with the whole album. I had it on loop for 5 months and then I went on to explore other indie ar... (more »)
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