Goulding’s ‘Halcyon’ Possesses A Certain Maturity That ‘Lights’ Lacked
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
The popular English artist Ellie Goulding (best known for her first single, “Lights”) released her second album, Halcyon, this week, on Oct. 9.
Halcyon, meaning “a time of peace,” is anything but mellow, and Goulding fans won’t be disappointed. Maintaining her electro-pop style, with some modern flavors, Goulding’s newest release has a maturity that wasn’t present in her first album. There are a few elements that will keep this album from achieving award-winning status, however.
It’s a little darker (no pun intended) than Lights. Goulding, who admitted in an interview with BBC News that she has battled depression for years, pours her heart into this album. Many of the lyrics are sad, but songs like “Anything Could Happen,” released in August as a single, lighten the album (although the music video for that track is quite tragic). The lyrics are deeper than the dance-pop sound would imply, with an uplifting outlook on life. Although, of course, there are some great love-themed ballads for the teen girl’s heart. Lyrics like “without your love, I’m getting somewhere,” makes this album a good source for workout-playlist material.
While Lights was more of a mix of styles, Halcyon is consistent, delving deeper into the electronic side with voice distortions, self-harmony, and skipping beats, while maintaining enough variation that the listener can discern one song from another.
Luckily, Goulding doesn’t need an auto-tuner to hit the high notes. While she has a great voice, with a unique style, she’s not afraid to modify it. In the song “Anything Could Happen,” it sounds like she’s even deepened her own voice electronically to sing a male part. Ellie does a good job of mixing her natural voice with a dance backdrop.
Other times, her style clashes with the background. The opening song, “Don’t Say A Word,” sounds out of place with a “wailing woman” opening (which her unique voice carries surprisingly well). In “Only You,” the vocal background is reminiscent of “Lonely” by Akon, with a chipmunk-sounding voice effect (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that).
The song “Hanging On” would have been better without the featured artist Tinie Tempah, whose rap bridge is distasteful, out-of-place, and generally unwanted. Ellie Goulding’s music is anything but crude, so Tempah’s rant is very unexpected. Lately, however, many pop songs have similar rap-breaks by other artists, a tactic that was famously mocked in “Friday” by Rebecca Black, and used by top artists like Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
For those who are already fans of Goulding, this album will be great for freshening up homework playlists. In her second album, with the security of a top-hit under her belt, Goulding clearly expresses the music that she wants to, not what the top-charts want. She’s shied away from the current trend of over-repetition, but stuck with the dance-beats and singing style of “Lights,” which will likely land a few more of her songs on the top charts this time around—and she’s already landed a spot on the soundtrack of Now Is Good, starring Dakota Fanning.
While many aspects of the album are very similar to Lights, Goulding has been doing her homework since her last release, and the result is a fresh sound, with more “stuttering,” (repeating accented words or syllables in rapid succession) various rhythms, chord progressions, and themes throughout the album. No two songs sound the same.
Although not outstanding, Halcyon was far from disappointing. This fall, Goulding will likely be one artist that will stand out among all the new releases. She isn’t likely to win over new fans with the new tracks, although it is possible that her style is coming back. Although, if she didn’t impress you with her cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” on her last album, she doesn’t offer you much better in this album.