Serenading Ceremonials

By Emma Laubscher

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Florence + the Machine have enjoyed recent success with Calvin Harris’s collaborative remix of their single “Spectrum” retitled “Spectrum (Say My Name)”. However, Ceremonials – the album from which the track was taken – has a lot more to offer. The British band’s second studio album was released on the 28th of October 2011 by Island Records. Ceremonials enjoyed a number one debut on the UK Albums Chart – the band’s second consecutive UK number one album. Globally, it debuted at number one on the Australian Albums Chart and rose to the sixth position on the US Billboard 200 chart.

Florence + the Machine comprises of the core members – main singer, Florence Welch and  Isabelle ‘Machine’ Summers – who collaborate with various artists to produce the profusion of sound that forms their signature baroque-pop anthems. Their sound comprises a collection musical genres – with Celtic, goth and neo-soul influences – but has been most popularly described as an indie rock band.

Florence Welch’s remarkable vocals, which rise and soar amid layered musical arrangements and intricate harmonies, are piercing and utterly unique. Her distinctive sound is showcased perfectly in their most popular single off the album – “Shake It Out”. “Shake It Out” conforms to the band’s primary sound with its baroque pop feel but includes gospel elements highlighted with organs, bells and tambourines which form the central instrumentation.

Other noteworthy singles off the album which follow along the same sound theme as “Shake It Out” include “What the Water Gave Me” and “Leave My Body.” These, too, contain the the swelling, cathartic and evocative qualities that are quintessentially Florence + the Machine. This core sound is augmented with tribal drums on the song “No Light, No Light” and “Heartlines” which add a richer, rhythmic experience to the album.

Ceremonials manages to escape the commercial feel of their previous album, Lungs, by centering on the band’s essential baroque pop core sound. However, this means that – for some – the album does have a tendency to blur. The similar elements of songs can tend to bleed into each other and lose their distinctiveness. The idiosyncratic Florence + the Machine sound may be felt by some to be repetitive or monotonous when listening to the album as a whole.

The album’s strongest quality is its ability to evoke an almost visceral response from the listener. The rich, emotive quality of the thickly layered, orchestral music is soul stirring. Ceremonials is a
sonic bonfire.

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