Album Review: Ellie Goulding – ‘Halcyon’

Posted: 11/10/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on Entertainment.ie on October 11th 2012

It’s been quite a rollercoaster-ride for Ellie Goulding since releasing her debut album Lights back in 2010. In fact, the ride was in full swing before the album even dropped, as she both topped the BBC Sound of 2010 Poll and won the Brits Critics Choice Award. Hype allowed her to make the jump from indie to major, leaving Neon Gold to join Universal Music Group’s stable of acts on Polydor Records – and in spite of mixed reviews, Lights proved a major commercial success, hitting the #1 spot in the UK charts instantaneously and going on to garner 1.5 million album sales and over five million single sales worldwide.

A clever re-release of the album further boosted her profile, just as the buzz of the original was beginning to wear thin. Six bonus tracks were included on the beefed-up Bright Lights, among them a cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ which was met with a sync deal with John Lewis for their Christmas 2010 advertising campaign, whilst the album’s title track curiously became a stateside sleeper-hit for Goulding, spending 15 months on the Billboard Hot 100 to date and amassing 3 million downloads in the process. Impressive sales records aside she has also toured with Katy Perry, sang yuletide carols with Barrack Obama in The White House, performed at the wedding of William & Kate, appeared on high-profile TV slots in the company of everyone from Ellen to Letterman, and found love with superstar DJ of the moment Skrillex. You’d wonder how she even found the time to make a follow-up…

Enter Halcyon, an album which Goulding has described as “a journey from dark into light from confusion to understanding”. The first preview track which she unleashed as a free download via Soundcloud back in July – crashing the site in the process due to demand – certainly showed the darker elements – ‘Hanging On’, featuring Tinie Tempah, married her soaring falsetto with heavy bass, and served as an intriguing sample of what lay ahead. Thankfully, Tinie has been ditched for the album version of the track – it’s much better without such insightful sentiments as “she broke my heart I took so G-G-G-G-Gaviscon”. Lead single ‘Anything Could Happen’ followed in late September – a definite Halcyon highlight, it’s sprightly pop with an edge, and the song’s impossibly catchy nature earned a coveted slot soundtracking the Beats By Dre #ShowYourColour commercial.

In spite of such continuing global attention it’s refreshing that Goulding herself wrote and co-produced all of the tracks on Halcyon, with majority of them recorded in a converted barn in her hometown in the Hay Valley with producer Jim Elliot. Vocally, she is in fine form, particularly on ‘My Blood’ – her voice is so unique, albeit at times over-produced, that it remains her greatest asset in remaining distinctive amongst the barrage of female solo artists currently doing the rounds. Lyrically, Halcyon is darker than its predecessor – ‘Dead in the Water’ is a fine melancholy pop song, slow-burning until sweeping orchestration takes control; but the album’s standout track is definitely ‘Figure 8’, with its sublime production and massive chorus, it’s likely to do well as a single. Goulding’s joint effort with Calvin Harris, ‘I Need Your Love’, has massive single-potential too and could well pave her way into club-land as his ‘We Found Love’ smash-hit collaboration with Rihanna did last year.

Her folk roots are now but a distant memory, but with Halcyon Ellie Goulding has moved into a whole new sonic dimension that will ensure her chart success continues full-speed ahead. It crucially lacks that element of ‘wow’ – but Halcyon is certainly a big advance on Lights, bigger and bolder and more anthemic, and an indication that perhaps album #3 will be the making of Ellie Goulding. In the meantime, as the title suggest, there’s plenty on Halcyon to keep her fans happy.

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