Album Review: Ellie Goulding – Halcyon


Photo: Simon Procter

Pop fans are very wary of Ellie Goulding. She may talk the talk and sing an array of absolute tunes, but there is something terrifying about how quickly she could strip back to nothing but a guitar and become the next Laura Marling. That may be an ideal move for some of you, but Ellie Goulding has such a knack for a catchy hook and an eye for sonic excitement that just screams popstar. ‘Halcyon’ is the point at which Ellie steers her career in a more permanent direction and it’s time to see where she wants it to be heading.

Thankfully, the album follows on from Ellie’s previous full length, ‘Lights’ beautifully. ‘Salt Skin’ from her debut is the perfect passageway into ‘Halcyon”s drama and bombast. ‘Don’t Say A Word’ opens up proceedings in the perfect manner – a slow, ethereal intro eclipsed by a pulsating tribal beat. The most incredible thing about Ellie’s new effort is that it is, above everything, brave and daring.

The anthemic lead single ‘Anything Could Happen’ and the powerful ‘Figure 8’ shift the tempo up a few notches, but for the most part ‘Halcyon’ seems pretty comfortable in it’s mid tempo. ‘Hanging On’, minus Tinie Tempah’s rap, has become a swooping display of beauty, a lot like the experimental ‘Only You’ that feels instantly familiar and ‘I Know You Care’ and ‘Joy’ are intriguing ballads that are much more adventurous than tracks like ‘The Writer’, but harness just as much glory.

‘Explosions’ is the best example of an impassioned Goulding, taking on the soaring chorus. It’s also a perfect example of ‘Halcyon”s biggest trump card – it’s fantastic, engaging and haunting touches that make every arrangement so special. The backing vocals are exquisite throughout and the strings elevate the emotion factor tenfold. A special mention has to go to the captivating lyrics that lend themselves beautifully to the, often intense, backdrops.

I’m not saying that tracks like ‘Wish I Stayed’ aren’t fantastic, nor am I saying that the title track’s tender guitar has no place here, what I am saying is that it’d be a shame for an accomplished musician and songwriter like Ellie Goulding to stop growing as an artist, to stop taking risks and to stop producing incredible material like ‘Halcyon’. This record will cement her status as an integral member of the wave of modern and relevant popstars, blurring the lines between indie and the mainstream and taking the final steps in ensuring that just because something is poppy, it doesn’t mean it’s cheesy.

Photo: Simon Procter
Words: Simon McMurdo


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