It’s amazing what beautiful creations can emerge from an artist’s darkest experiences. Laura Elizabeth Hughes’ sophomore EP ‘Ceremony’ was formed during a time which she called the “darkest of her life”. Through her songs she overcomes her pain, eventually turning the suffering into something she is “proud to wear as beauty”. Laura herself described the EP as “4 tracks that showed me in the midst of a depression that beauty still exists”.
The opening track, The Dark, is perhaps the most accessible song on the EP in terms of sound and content. Over a soft, acoustic-guitar-driven instrumental, Laura tells the story of a girl whose unrequited love for a boy has her feeling as though she’s been left “in the dark” with him. Though its narrative might seem fairly straight forward on the surface, the song actually carries a deeper meaning.
Laura said that it’s about “being lost and realising that sometimes the only way out is through”, as well as “being blind to where you are and what’s going on around you”. The piano chords and string arrangements compliment Laura’s vocals particularly well in the chorus, as do her own backing vocals towards the end of the song.
The overall theme of darkness into light becomes evident in the EP’s triumphant second track, Straight For Tomorrow. As “sparks collide” over up-tempo drum patterns and spacey guitar melodies, Laura seems to find some solace in the stars. Setting them alight allows her to witness a rebirth of sorts. Their “glowing crash” burns away “the scars”, as she heads “straight for tomorrow, holding hands above the crowd”. The song fades out with the help of some added instrumentation and vocal doubling, drifting off slowly into space like the stars themselves.
Though Sophie is the shortest track on the EP, the disjointedness of its various sections make it feel like one of the longest. However, this lack of cohesion could be meant to represent the fractured relationship described here. Laura’s partner is presumably having an affair with a girl named Sophie, and there appears to be a lack of communication between them.
She questions his actions justly with: “Oh the eyes of one, and the lips of another. The barrage of a lie, would you tell your mother about Sophie?”. This hurtful experience leaves Laura with no choice but to “grow with the pain”, and the picture she paints of a seed surviving harsh conditions is a fitting portrayal of her willingness to prevail.
The final track, Stay With You, is the culmination of all of Laura’s previous battles. As her powerful vocals are backed only by slow piano chords and ambient sounds, she sings of forgetting the “monsters and voices” which have kept her “fire from burning”.
Guitar and percussion are introduced gradually as the song progresses both instrumentally and lyrically, while Laura’s new found perspective is showcased with the lyrics: “eager for love, eager to be found, no hiding now, no hurt again”. The Portishead-like bridge near the halfway mark reduces the song’s effectiveness, though it could serve as a reminder that even in the brightest moments there’s still some darkness lingering.
‘Ceremony’ depicts the toughest time in Laura’s life. The four songs carry so much emotional weight that when announcing its release, she said she “was scared of these words, and what recording them” would do to her.
During her depression she encountered a darkness that she’s “not afraid of anymore”, and by expressing herself through her music she managed to produce something beautiful from such a painful experience.
“A closing ceremony of sorts… but also an opening ceremony of other sorts”