Friday, November 23, 2012

Albums2010 #59: Ceremonials

Like pretty much everyone, I was first introduced to Florence and the Machine with previews for the Julia Roberts movie 'Eat, Pray, Love' and like most everyone, I thought: 'What was that?' And then ran to YouTube to figure it out. That single from her first album, Lungs was good. Inspirational good. Like you would go work out at the gym and feel good about life's possibilities type of good- which is probably why they used it for 'Eat, Pray, Love.' (Which was a good book and an inspirational enough movie, I suppose- though it kind of bugged me. After all, not everyone gets the luxury of a book contract to go find themselves. Most of us just have to deal with shit.)

I thought I'd check out their sophomore effort, Ceremonials to see if it was any good- and lo and behold, it was. Artists that have iconic, powerful voices tend to be artists I like- and lead singer Florence Welch has one helluva set of lungs on her. Shades of Annie Lennox and Grace Slick combined with the essential ethereal weirdness of Kate Bush into something totally unique and wonderful.

Ceremonials is face-meltingly good. From the big sound of the lead single off the album 'Shake It Off' to the deeper, more orchestral sounds of 'Only If For A Night' and the interesting twists and turns of 'Seven Devils' (which was used in a promo for Game of Thrones, as Wikipedia reminded me) it's just awesome, in that avant garde, soulful, slightly strange way that makes me think of Annie Lennox at her weirdest or Kate Bush, well anytime.

But Ceremonials is to be commended because it's managed to pull of a first with the track 'Spectrum.' By itself, it's good- a nice addition to the album, but it really scored big- both on the charts and with me personally with the remix by Calvin Harris... mark your calendars kids and circle this moment in sharpie: this is the first time I've stumbled a remixed version of a song that's not only good but actually makes the original song better. A rare achievement indeed, in my book.

But how do you describe the sound of this wonderful album? I'm not sure you can I have a sneaking suspicion that Florence and the Machine intended it that way. Big and bombastic, orchestral, beautiful, ethereal, strange, soulful- they all fit- though Florence deserves mad props for making such extensive use of the harp. It's everywhere in this album and the way they use it packs one hell of a wallop. I love it. It's refreshing, its unusual and yes, the way they use the harp in this album is powerful. All of which makes Ceremonials a wholly satisfying musical experience.

Overall: *** out of **** This loses a star because I think Florence has to catch you in the right mood for you to really click with her music. Feeling introspective? Perhaps a touch of melancholy? Ready to jam out to some big, orchestral jams? Florence and the Machine is going to hit you just perfectly..

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