The year was 2011 and I was upset. A band called Florence and the Machine, who I had fallen in love with because of their previous album “Lungs,” had just released a new album that I was less than thrilled with. On first listen the songs fell flat, and the mystery and choral chanting that had enthralled me had been replaced by an artist trying to make the most profitable album they could. I abandoned it and told myself this was just another band that only had one solid record in them. I considered the band a waste of my time and moved on.
Maybe a year later, I happened to hear a single from the now not so new album, “Ceremonials,” and I decided to give it another listen. How lucky I am to have realized the error in my ways.
Almost from the first song, “Only if for the night,” I was possessed by the same magical spirit that had taken over me upon hearing the first album. The production was better, and much more layered, and the themes presented were more of mythical and of epic proportions. She had captured me again, and I was thankful.
This album has many great gifts among it, one of which is the absolutely powerful “Shake it Out.” This song has stadium anthem written all over it, and you can tell that’s what they were after. It gives power to powerless people,and makes the trials of life easier to circumvent. The listener can relate to the lyrics “It’s hard to dance with the evil on your back,” because we’ve all been there. Now, while I don’t really think the devil exists, the negativity we all endure is real, and the song presents us with a mantra to triumph over difficult things. There are many songs this uplifting on the album, but this is the strongest in my opinion.
“What the water gave Me,” the first proper introduction the world was given to the album comes next, and if you were a fan of the first album’s slowly moving dramatic songs, you likely enjoy this song. Florence Welch’s voice is on full display here, and the song is almost reminiscent of a twisted, dark age hymn one might here. It’s very atmospheric, and works beauitfully in the place it has been arranged on the album.
Speaking on sequencing, they do a marvelous job with this album especially. Most great album are albums that walk the line between a middle that perfectly moves the pace along without making the listener bored and wondering when the thing will end, and this one knows exactly what it’s doing in that regard. Songs like “Never Let Me Go,”Breaking Down,” and “Lover to Lover” keep the album interesting for the middle sections of the album while also giving some new things a try. The piano on Lover brings you into a smoky burlesque club full of hardened souls with nowhere to go, and somehow makes it ok.
The second half of the album however, is where things take on a diiferent beast than the previous half.
“No Light,No Light,” is just a plain epic fucking song. The vocals come in amid a storm of background chamber music, and you feel like you’re in a church at the darkest time of your life. The song is full of amazing imagery, depicting a battle between good and bad. While I’m not sure who comes out victorius, it’s clear the pain behind the song has caused both sides bad injuries. It’s such a good song! Easily in my top five that the band has ever recorded.
“Seven Devils” is the next treat in the ever giving gift bag that is this album. It’s the perfect song to start a concert with. I imagine the lights going down as the band plays this behind a giant sheet and the effects and shadows take you over until the curtain drops and you’re face to face with the band as the fight to kill the evil darkness surrounding them.
At their very best, Florence and Machine bring about the best of the light and the worst of the darkness. Hearing these songs you feel the fight is constant and the turmoil is at times overwhelming. That’s what I like about the band. They are mythical gods coming to the forefront. Everything from the piano, to the pounding drums and the vocals, all work perfectly I tune to each other.
The ninth song, “Heartlines” comes at us like a brigade pounding on stationary drums flanked by red flags proclaiming victory. It’s also a wonderfully positive song, instructing you to keep going and obtain what you desire most. It a song like this that makes you think you can do anything.
The album closes with the back to back punch of “All this and heaven too,” and “Leave my Body.”
“All this and heaven too” yearns for the answers everyone is seeking, “Crying out” for the proper direction in which to fulfill your destiny. She’s begging for, and trying to figure it out just like the rest of us. This makes the album human, and understandable. We all want the struggle to be over and for things to rest peacefully, but that’s not what life is. Album closer “Leave my Body” brings us one last glimpse into the mind of the band, and presents us with a person who needs to the closure she has been trying to attain. She wants to walk away and start fresh from all the pain.
While the band has never said anything regarding this, the album very much feels like a concept album about the struggles of a modern woman who is fighting demons, and paying for her sins in a very real way, while trying to stay above the current of the sea. I’ll likely never know if this is true, but I can’t help but think the themes events in this album are just random thoughts and aren’t at least a ver loose story. If you haven’t checked this album out, you should. It’s pays you back one hundred times over and keeps on giving in the realm of music. Thank you for reading.