Ceremonials

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This article is about the Florence and the Machine album. For the ritual, see Ceremony.
Ceremonials
Studio album by Florence and the Machine
Released 28 October 2011 (2011-10-28)
Recorded 2010–11; Abbey Road Studios and Wolf Tone Studios, London
Genre Baroque pop, art rock, indie rock, soul, indie pop
Length 55:58
Label Island
Producer
Florence and the Machine chronology
Live at the Wiltern
(2011)
Ceremonials
(2011)
MTV Unplugged
(2012)
Singles from Ceremonials
  1. "What the Water Gave Me"
    Released: 23 August 2011 (2011-08-23)
  2. "Shake It Out"
    Released: 30 September 2011 (2011-09-30)
  3. "No Light, No Light"
    Released: 16 January 2012 (2012-01-16)
  4. "Never Let Me Go"
    Released: 30 March 2012 (2012-03-30)
  5. "Spectrum (Say My Name)"
    Released: 5 July 2012 (2012-07-05)
  6. "Lover to Lover"
    Released: 30 November 2012 (2012-11-30)

Ceremonials is the second studio album by English indie rock band Florence and the Machine, released on 28 October 2011 by Island Records. The band started working on the album in 2010 and finished it in 2011. All of the songs on the album were produced by Paul Epworth, who also worked prominently on the band's debut album Lungs (2009).

The album received acclaim from music critics, who drew comparisons to artists such as Kate Bush, while also praising the instrumentation, Florence Welch's vocals and the production of the songs. As a critical success, it appeared on several year-end critics' lists in late 2011. Furthermore, Ceremonials received a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and "Shake It Out" received one for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. Ceremonials debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, becoming the band's second consecutive number-one album in the UK. It also debuted at number one on the Australian Albums Chart and peaked at number six on the US Billboard 200 chart, becoming the band's first top ten album in the United States. English novelist Emma Forrest contributed an essay to the album, which can be found in the booklet of the CD edition.

To date, six singles have been released from Ceremonials. "What the Water Gave Me" was released on 23 August 2011 as a teaser for the album, along with a music video. "Shake It Out" was released on 30 September 2011 as the album's official lead single, becoming one of the band's most commercially successful singles to date. "No Light, No Light" was released on 16 January 2012 as the second official single from the album and "Never Let Me Go" was released on 30 March 2012. "Spectrum (Say My Name)" was released on 5 July 2012 and, fuelled by a remix by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, became Florence and the Machine's first number-one single in the UK. "Lover to Lover" was released on 30 November 2012. Ceremonials was also promoted by the band by a worldwide tour, the Ceremonials Tour (2011–12).

Background[edit]

NME magazine confirmed that after the release of the song "Heavy in Your Arms" for the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, lead singer Florence Welch entered the studio for a two-week session to record with producer Paul Epworth, with whom she worked on the band's debut album, Lungs. She said that the two recordings that came out of that session were inspired by science because "a lot of her family are doctors or trying to become doctors, so much of her conversations are fixated on medical stuff."[1] In an interview with the Gibson website on 17 February 2011, guitarist Rob Ackroyd stated, "Work on the second album has begun with Paul Epworth and there is talk of booking out Abbey Road for a month in April/May to record."[2] In June 2011, Epworth told BBC 6 Music that the album would probably be finished "by the end of July" and described the sound as "a lot less indie and lot more soulful".[3] He also indicated that there were sixteen songs up for inclusion on the album, but that this would be reduced upon the time of release.[3] On 23 August 2011, Pitchfork Media confirmed after the release of "What the Water Gave Me" that the album has the band working solely with Epworth.[4] On 12 September 2011, Alan Cross confirmed that Florence and the Machine's second album would be titled Ceremonials. He also commented on the album by saying, "I've heard a little more than half the record and it is big, soulful and powerful. Think Adele or Tori Amos but with some serious Kate Bush DNA, especially with the rhythm section."[5]

Regarding the album's title, Welch told MTV News, "It was an art installation done in the '70s, this video piece all done on Super 8, this big procession of kind of coquette-style hippies and all these different colored robes and masks, and it was all to do with color, really saturated, brightly colored pastas and balloons. I saw it a couple years ago, and it was called 'Ceremonials' and then, like, Roman numerals after it. And the word sort of stuck with me, and I think the whole idea of performance, and kind of putting on this outfit and going out almost to find some sort of exorcism or absolution, to kind of get outside yourself, there's a sense of ceremony to it."[6] Welch also revealed that she wanted to call the album Violence, stating, "I wanted to make an album that sounded like the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, the violence mixed with the classical Shakespearean drama mixed with the pop and the pulp, extreme neon stuff."[7] In an interview with The Guardian, she described the album as "much bigger" and categorised its genre as "chamber soul", a mixture of chamber pop and soul.[8]

Promotion[edit]

Florence and the Machine performing during their 2011 Lungs Tour.

One of the tracks, "Strangeness and Charm" (ultimately included on the deluxe edition of the album), was debuted on 2 May 2010 at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, during their Cosmic Love Tour.[9] The song was later recorded live at the Hammersmith Apollo on another stop of The Cosmic Love Tour and was released on a deluxe re-release of Lungs titled Between Two Lungs along with other live tracks and previously unreleased B-sides. Welch describes the song as "about seven minutes long and pretty relentless" and also "dancey, but it's also dark as well",[9] featuring "relentless drums and heavy, droning bass."[1] During their North American tour, Florence and the Machine debuted "What the Water Gave Me" at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California on 12 June 2011.[10] On 23 August 2011, the song was released on iTunes as a buzz single from the album,[11] along with an accompanying video on their Vevo channel on YouTube.[12]

Florence and the Machine embarked on several live performances to promote Ceremonials. The band premiered four tracks from the album—"Only If for a Night", "Never Let Me Go", "Heartlines" and "Spectrum"—at The Creators Project, a partnership between Vice and Intel, in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighbourhood on 15 October 2011.[13][14] They launched the album with an exclusive gig at the Hackney Empire in London on 25 October, which was live-streamed on The Guardian website.[15] On 1 November, they performed "What the Water Gave Me" and "No Light, No Light" on the British music television show Later... with Jools Holland.[16] On 6 November, the band made their first appearance on The X Factor, where they performed "Shake It Out" on the double elimination results show.[17] "Shake It Out" was also performed on the Irish late-night talk show The Late Late Show (28 October),[18] The X Factor Australia (15 November)[19][20] and Good Morning America (21 November).[21]

They performed "Shake It Out" and "What the Water Gave Me" on the Canal+ show La Musicale in France on 18 November.[22] The following day, Florence and the Machine appeared on the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live for the second time, performing "Shake It Out" and "No Light, No Light".[23] The group stopped by BBC Radio 1 on 25 November for a special Live Lounge set, which included performances of "Shake It Out", "What the Water Gave Me", "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)", "Dog Days Are Over" and "No Light, No Light", as well as a cover of "Take Care" by Drake featuring Rihanna.[24] They performed "Spectrum" on The X Factor USA semi-final results show on 15 December.[25] The band performed at the Los Angeles portion of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest,[26] which was broadcast live on 31 December on the ABC Television Network.[27] The band performed "No Light, No Light" at the 2012 BRIT Awards at The O2 Arena in on 21 February 2012.[28][29] On 2 July 2012, a music video for "Breaking Down" was officially released.[30]

The song "Heartlines" was featured in the tenth episode of the fifth season of The CW's teen drama series Gossip Girl, originally aired 5 December 2011.[31] "Seven Devils" appeared in the trailer to promote the second season of the HBO series Game of Thrones,[32] as well as in the season one finale of the ABC series Revenge, which was broadcast 23 May 2012.[33] It was also used in the trailer for the 2013 romantic fantasy film Beautiful Creatures.[34] "Never Let Me Go" was used in the nineteenth episode of the third season of The Vampire Diaries, aired 19 April 2012,[35] in the second episode of the third season of Nikita aired 26 October 2012 [36] and in the pilot of Beauty & the Beast aired 11 October 2012.[37] "Leave My Body", "No Light, No Light" and "Never Let Me Go" were all featured during the ninth and final season of One Tree Hill.[38] "Bedroom Hymns" was featured in a trailer for the 2013 romantic drama film The Great Gatsby.[39]

Singles[edit]

"What the Water Gave Me" was released on 23 August 2011 as the first taster of Ceremonials.[11][40] The single debuted at number twenty-four on the UK Singles Chart.[41] It saw moderate chart success elsewhere, reaching number thirteen in Ireland, number fifteen in New Zealand and number thirty-five in Australia.[42][43]

"Shake It Out", released on 30 September 2011 as the album's official lead single,[40][44] premiered exclusively on XFM London on 14 September 2011.[45] After debuting at number twenty-seven on the UK Singles Chart, the song peaked at number twelve in its sixth week on the run,[46] becoming Florence and the Machine's fourth top twenty single in the UK, as well as their third highest-peaking single to date (tied with 2009's "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)").[41] Internationally, it became the group's most successful single yet in Ireland after it reached number two on the Irish Singles Chart,[42] while charting inside the top twenty in New Zealand and Norway, the top forty in Australia, the top fifty in Australia and Sweden, and the top sixty-five in Switzerland.[47]

"No Light, No Light" was released on 16 January 2012 as the second single from the album.[6][48] The single reached number sixty-three on the UK Singles Chart.[41] The accompanying video, released on 18 November 2011, caused controversy after it was accused of racism due to its perceived use of blackface by one actor in the video, and was also criticised for its depiction of voodoo.[49][50][51]

"Never Let Me Go" was released on 30 March 2012 as the third single from the album.[52] The music video was released on 7 March 2012.[53]

A remix of "Spectrum" by Scottish DJ and producer Calvin Harris, titled "Spectrum (Say My Name)", was released on 5 July 2012 as the fourth single.[54] It became the band's first number-one single on the UK chart.[55]

"Lover to Lover" was released as the fifth single from the album on 30 November 2012.[56] Directed by Vincent Haycock (who also directed the video for Welch's collaboration with Harris, "Sweet Nothing"), the music video debuted on 19 November and features a new single version of the song.[57]

Tour[edit]

Main article: Ceremonials Tour

To promote the album, Florence and the Machine embarked on their second worldwide tour titled Ceremonials Tour on 13 October 2011. The set list includes songs from the band's two studio albums. The tour ended in December 2012, after two years of worldwide touring.[58] The tour will include numerous performances at music festivals as that is Welch's favourite way to perform live.[8] During an interview with MTV News, Welch discussed the nature of the tour, saying, "In a way, it's not going to be too big a production; we've done a lot of quite extravagant stuff, and that's been amazing, but for this tour, it's definitely going to be about showcasing the music [...] The songs are going to be the most important thing. It will be heavily based on the music [...] no bells and whistles just yet, we're going to try and keep it quite pure."[59]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 75/100[60]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[61]
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars[62]
Entertainment Weekly A[63]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[64]
The Independent 3/5 stars[65]
NME 8/10[66]
Pitchfork Media 6.0/10[67]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[68]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[69]
Spin 8/10[70]

Critical reception[edit]

Ceremonials received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 75, based on 36 reviews.[60] Laura Foster of Clash magazine called the album a "confident, cohesive effort" and found that "[t]he steady hand of Paul Epworth on production has helped Florence to take the winning formula of her distinctive vocals and melodies, the twinkling harps and thundering drums, and augment it with string arrangements, subtle electro touches, and gospel choirs."[71] Entertainment Weekly's Kyle Anderson praised it as a "confident, unflinching tour de force" and commented, "If her acclaimed 2009 debut, Lungs, was a scrappy shrine to survival and empowerment, its follow-up is a baroque cathedral, bedecked with ornate tapestries made of ghostly choirs, pagan-rhythmic splendor, and a whole lot of harp. And though that sounds like a mess of New Age goop, Ceremonials genuinely rocks."[63] Allmusic critic James Christopher Monger wrote, "Bigger and bolder than 2009's excellent Lungs, Ceremonials rolls in like fog over the Thames, doling out a heavy-handed mix of Brit-pop-infused neo-soul anthems and lush, movie trailer-ready ballads that fuse the bluesy, electro-despair of Adele with the ornate, gothic melodrama of Kate Bush and Floodland-era Sisters of Mercy."[61] Barry Nicolson of the NME argued that "by taking what worked about Lungs and amplifying those qualities to a natural, satisfying conclusion, Florence has made a near-great pop record that should afford her the creative freedom to do whatever the hell she wants next time around."[66]

Rolling Stone writer Jody Rosen commented that the album contains "turbulent ballads, powered by booming drums and vocal chorales rising like distant thunder, full of Welch's banshee wails. The music touches on Celtic melodies, bluesy rock stomps, nods to goth and gospel. But the wind never stops howling." He continued, "This is a very British record, drawing on a tradition of iconoclastic U.K. pop that stretches from Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees to PJ Harvey."[68] Margaret Wappler of the Los Angeles Times stated that "Welch has struck a fantastic and necessary balance. She's found a way to honor her Bjorkian appetites for lavish orchestral spectacle while finding the depth and subtlety of her voice."[72] The Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick viewed Ceremonials as "a giant, fluid, emotionally resonant album, performed as if Welch's very sanity is at stake", adding, "Contrary to the name she has given her band, the Machine feel organic and human, providing an epic, full-blooded soundtrack to Welch's voodoo, in which rhythm, melody and chanting are employed to drive out neuroses and insecurities, characterised as ghosts and devils."[62] Rob Harvilla of Spin magazine raved that on Ceremonials, Welch is "a bloodied, bloodying songbird in a gilded cage of immaculately crafted, slow-burn, chest-beating empowerment anthems, gripping steel bars that her elegantly volcanic voice could shred at any moment", while noting that "[s]he's so much better than her material that her material is rendered immaterial."[70] In a review for The Observer, Kitty Empire opined that "on the gale-force Ceremonials the vocals often sound multitracked" and that "[t]he production is high-church—harps, bells, shimmers, strings and keyboards that seem to breed over the course of the album. The cresting choruses are never less than heroic. As an arty eccentric, Welch is sometimes lazily compared to Kate Bush. Here, though, that tenuous link works. The album's boofing drum sound comes straight out of Bush's 80s output; on balance, a neat trick."[73]

Michael Hann of The Guardian concluded that the album "always sounds wonderful—producer Paul Epworth has created a warm, soft, four-poster featherbed of sound for Welch to emote over—but it never really satisfies. One yearns for Welch's wonderful voice to be delivering lines of more import than the nonsense she's often delivering here."[64] Slant Magazine's Matthew Cole wrote that "[t]he first four tracks of Ceremonials are essentially flawless", but critiqued that the album "can't help but get weaker as it continues, a fact which owes less to the quality of the songwriting than to the album's length [...] and a far less dynamic second act."[69] Andy Gill of The Independent expressed, "[I]n cementing one style, some of the possibilities offered by Lungs have been choked off. The only time [Welch] and The Machine stray from the formula is the Krautrock-disco motorik of 'Spectrum'; elsewhere, declamatory piano chords and burring organ underpin the banked, soaring vocals that are her trademark [...] It's all impressive, though 'Seven Devils', with Halloween-esque keyboard, overdoes the corny horror melodrama terribly."[65] Alix Buscovic of BBC Music felt that the album "offers the pomp, but somehow not quite the power, of Welch's debut: this is all grandeur without any grace. The more weight and length [...] given to the songs, the less impact they have and the more wearied they leave you."[74] Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal was equally unimpressed, writing, "Instead of Lungs' largely charming yet discombobulating diversity, Ceremonials suffers from a repetitiveness that's akin to looking at a skyline filled with 100-story behemoths lined-up one after the other, blocking out everything but their own size."[67]

Commercial performance[edit]

Ceremonials debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, selling approximately 38,000 copies in its first two days of release and 94,050 copies altogether in its first week.[75][76] It fell to number three the following week, selling 58,278 copies.[77] On 2 December 2011, Ceremonials was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[78] It ended 2011 as the UK's twenty-eighth best-selling album and third best-selling rock album, having sold 384,000 copies as of January 2012.[79][80]

The album also debuted at number one in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand,[81][82][83] and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) in its first week of sales.[82] It was ultimately certified triple platinum by the ARIA in early 2013, signalling shipments of 210,000 copies.[84] Selling 105,000 units in its opening week in the United States, Ceremonials entered the Billboard 200 at number six,[85] while debuting atop the Rock Albums, Alternative Albums and Digital Albums charts. The album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 23 January 2012,[86] and had sold 849,000 copies in the US as of February 2013.[87]

Accolades[edit]

Ceremonials was named the best album of 2011 by Q magazine.[88] Time magazine ranked it as the second best album of 2011, stating that "[d]espite her penchant for emotive gloom, Welch's tales of heartache can be oddly uplifting; when she sings about darkness and demons, we know she will ultimately conquer them."[89] Entertainment Weekly, on its list of the 10 Best Albums of 2011, listed the album at number five and wrote, "A big believer in Red Sea-parting melodrama, she's got the orchestral ­grandeur to pull it off. Of course, it helps that she ­attacks the harp as if she were wielding an ax."[90] Billboard placed it at number eight on its list of the 10 Best Albums of 2011, noting that singles "Shake It Out" and "What the Water Gave Me" "possess an anthemic quality, but they're far from the only epic moments on the rock-tinged record, which finds Welch channeling avant-pop luminaries like Annie Lennox and Kate Bush."[91] Slant Magazine included Ceremonials at number twenty-two on its list of The 25 Best Albums of 2011, commenting that the album is "steeped in melodrama, with pump organs, choirs, and strings expertly deployed as pure pomp on already rousing singles like 'Shake It Out' and 'No Light, No Light.' But Welch is perfectly capable of doing delicate too, as evidenced by the gorgeously textured lead single 'What the Water Gave Me' and 'Never Let Me Go,' while tracks like "Lover to Lover" are reminiscent of the Eurythmics at their most soulful."[92] PopMatters twenty-five, calling it "an expansive album, haunted by tragedy but boldly offering a comforting embrace in reply."[93]

The A.V. Club named it the twenty-sixth best album of 2011 and claimed, "A perfect blend of majestic and morose, Ceremonials establishes Welch as one of the most boundary-pushing divas in the business."[94] Rolling Stone ranked the album at number twenty-seven on its list of the 50 Best Albums of 2011, adding, "From 'Shake It Out' to the arena-scale Motown of 'Lover to Lover,' Big Red brings it again and again, choirs and string players backing a voice that soars so high, it makes them seem like ants on the ground below."[95] Clash, on its list of The Top 40 Albums of 2011, included Ceremonials at number twenty-eight and opined that the album "heralded the triumphant return of one of Britain's most exciting pop stars. Bettering the sound she first developed on Lungs, the only problem she faces now is deciding which of its massive songs to release as singles."[96] The NME placed the album at number thirty-one on its list of the 50 Best Albums of 2011, writing that the album "amounted to pop in its purest sense, as something grand and strange and with ambitions higher than mere humanity, as the triple-headed priestess-muse Florence depicted on its sleeve suggested."[97] In addition to year-end critics' lists, the album earned the band nominations for British Female Solo Artist and MasterCard British Album of the Year at the 2012 BRIT Awards.[98] Furthermore, Ceremonials received a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and "Shake It Out" received one for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer Length
1. "Only If for a Night"   Epworth 4:58
2. "Shake It Out"  
  • Welch
  • Epworth
Epworth 4:37
3. "What the Water Gave Me"   Epworth 5:33
4. "Never Let Me Go"  
  • Welch
  • Epworth
Epworth 4:31
5. "Breaking Down"  
  • Welch
Epworth 3:49
6. "Lover to Lover"  
  • Welch
  • White
Epworth 4:02
7. "No Light, No Light"   Epworth 4:34
8. "Seven Devils"  
  • Welch
  • Epworth
Epworth 5:03
9. "Heartlines"  
  • Welch
  • Epworth
Epworth 5:01
10. "Spectrum"  
  • Welch
  • Epworth
Epworth 5:11
11. "All This and Heaven Too"  
  • Welch
  • Summers
Epworth 4:05
12. "Leave My Body"  
  • Welch
  • Epworth
Epworth 4:34

Personnel[edit]

Credits for the deluxe edition of Ceremonials adapted from liner notes.[104]

Florence and the Machine
  • Florence Welch – vocals (all tracks); bass (13)
  • Rob Ackroyd – guitar (3, 13–15)
  • Christopher Lloyd Hayden – drums (1–12, 14, 15); backing vocals (1–4, 7–10); percussion (2, 3, 14)
  • Tom Monger – harp (all tracks); bass (8)
  • Mark Saunders – backing vocals (1–4, 7–9); percussion (1–3, 7, 9, 14); bass (3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15); additional guitar (11)
  • Isabella Summers – piano (6, 7, 11); additional backing vocals engineering (7, 11); drum programming (7, 11, 13); choir parts, strings (7); synthesiser (8, 13, 14); celesta, programming (11); bells, production (13)
Additional personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[147] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[148] Gold 10,000x
Belgium (BEA)[149] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[150] Gold 40,000^
Germany (BVMI)[151] Gold 100,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[152] 3× Platinum 45,000x
New Zealand (RMNZ)[153] Platinum 15,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[154] Platinum 20,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[155] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[156] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Edition(s)
Australia[157] 28 October 2011 Universal Music Standard, deluxe
Germany[158]
Netherlands[159]
Poland[160]
Ireland[161] Island Records
United Kingdom[99][162] 31 October 2011
France[163] Universal Music
Italy[164] Standard
Canada[165] 1 November 2011 Standard, deluxe
United States[166] Universal Republic Records
Italy[167] 8 November 2011 Universal Music Deluxe
Brazil[168] 16 November 2011 Standard
United Kingdom[101] 27 July 2012 Island Records Deluxe (digital re-release)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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