Ceremonials

by Glitch | 11/3/11
8.5ARTIST INFO

A dark, moody, lucid-dream of an album, Florence + the Machine's sophomore effort, "Ceremonials," will drop, appropriately, this Halloween.

Whether you're a fan or not, a new Florence + the Machine album is good news however you look at it: for non-fans and casual fans alike, this means that you'll finally get a reprieve from hearing the maddeningly overplayed "The Dog Days Are Over" everywhere you go (including, probably, outer space). And for diehard fans of Florence + the Machine -- i.e., British singer/songwriter/indie diva Florence Welch and her backing musicians -- and their 2009 breakout album, "Lungs," the new album certainly does not disappoint.

"Ceremonials" has the sound Florence + the Machine fans already know and love: seamless, imaginative arrangements, complete with dreamy strings, ethereal harps, pounding drums, choir vocals, and just a dash of Enya. Each song is an almost an otherworldly experience, a rich and elaborate sound-scape providing the perfect backdrop for Welch's commanding voice to soar. Florence Welch has said that she wanted "Ceremonials" to be a darker, heavier version of "Lungs," with "more of a whole sound." To this end, Flo and company were successful, indeed.

Like "Lungs," the lyrics on "Ceremonials" are lovelorn and literary, with underlying themes of redemption and violence, light and dark, life and death. You'd think the songs might get bogged down with these heavy themes, but they're ultimately as defiant and uplifting as any pop-rock anthem, with most tracks building to a triumphant crescendo of a chorus that champions overcoming adversity and following your own true path. For every "It's hard to dance with a devil on your back" there's a reminder to "Shake him off!" ("Shake it Out"). In "Heartlines," the rather distrubing visual of "Entrails of animals, the blood running through" (ick!) is countered by a more reassuring lyric reminding you to "Just keep following the heartlines on your hand." While the relatable, empowering choruses are probably why drunk girls love to annoyingly group-sing/shout the lyrics to Florence + the Machine songs at parties, the lyrics are also part of makes this band's songs so resonant.

As a whole, "Ceremonials" is more subtle than the group's previous effort. That said, more subtle works tend to wear better with time (And they also result in less drunk-girl chorus-shouting.). Although "Ceremonials" arguably doesn't contain another "Dog Days" or "You've Got the Love," the new album's shimmering first single, "Shake it Out," comes pretty damn close to a "Cosmic Love." "What the Water Told Me," "Heartlines," "Never Let Me Go" and "Breaking Down" are other stand-out tracks on the album. If you spring for the deluxe 20-song CD, you'll also get gorgeous acoustic versions of "Heartlines," "Shake it Out" and "Breaking Down" as well as an LP-worthy demo track called "Landscape."

Lyrics to Shake it Out:

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

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

And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It's a final mess but it's left me so empty
It's always darkest before the dawn

Oh woah, oh woah...

And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I'm gonna let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

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