Ceremonials (Deluxe Version)

Ceremonials (Deluxe Version)

After debuting with 2009’s Lungs—one of the best and most successful heartbreak albums in years—Florence Welch had to think carefully for album two. She’d seen which of the eclectic sounds made chart hits on Lungs (“Dog Days Are Over,” Rabbit Heart [Raise It Up],” and “You’ve Got the Love” still among her biggest songs ever) and she was already more than aware of her not-so-secret weapon: her voice—rich, ethereal, and ridiculously powerful. Here, in order to keep up with that voice—now front and center—producer Paul Epworth helps make sure the gothic pop melodrama is larger than life, while the band abandons the garage rock and more straightforward pop of their debut in favor of all things choral and tribal. On Ceremonials, everything is turned up to 11. First single “Shake It Out” is a good taste of that, an uplifting anthem built for stages befitting the group’s new magnitude. Welch orders us to throw off our troubles and forget them because “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back”. Speaking of devils, these songs are a collection of dark tales about drowning (including the haunting, Virginia Woolf-referencing “What the Water Gave Me”), exorcism, and emotions. On the harp-accompanied track “No Light, No Light,” Welch amplifies the religious overtones to speak about her difficulties of intimacy in a relationship, while against the backdrop of an eerie piano and anxious choir on “Seven Devils,” she again uses metaphors of devils and demons as a stand-in for her rage. And then there’s the powerful “Never Let Me Go”—a song so personal and so connected to some of Welch’s most difficult moments, that she refused to play it live for 10 years, only resurfacing it again on tour in 2022. The early 2000s indie scene in the UK produced plenty of instant-classic albums like Lungs, but also plenty of acts who never managed to reach such brilliance again. This debut could have been that kind of lucky record—and Florence + the Machine that kind of one-off success story. But with Ceremonials, the ethereal Welch signed on the dotted line with her quill and ink: She was an indie scene queen turned global pop star for good.

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