Ellie Goulding released “Lights” to the world nearly three years ago. At the time, she was a relatively unknown singer from the small town of Kington in the UK. Things have changed a bit since then. Try completing a normal, daily task without hearing “Lights” somewhere along the way. It’s not possible. I can’t even go to Chipotle to pick up a burrito bowl without hearing the single blaring from the speakers. The success of her debut album coupled with performing at The Royal Wedding and The White House have made her sophomore effort Halcyon one of the more talked about, anticipated releases of the year. You know when you listen to an album, and it’s beyond evident that an artist has officially established his/her own unique sound? That’s what Halcyon represents for Ellie. She’s officially found her voice on the record — it’s distinct, it’s recognizable, and it’s unlike anything else out there.
Halcyon is a breakup album, plain and simple. It’s strange in that for the most part, the production makes it sound like an uplifting compilation — but if you were to read the lyrics off paper as they are, you’d immediately grab a Xanax prescription to ship overnight in Ellie’s general direction. The lyrical content as a whole is gloomy and depressing as hell (try “Stood in the rain and watched you go, I feel a lump in my throat” or ”When it’s just us, you show me what it feels like to be lonely” or “I think of dying all the time.”) Ellie herself has stated (to The New York Times) that she never set out for this to be an overly emotional collection, it just kind of worked out that way. “Basically I’d already started writing the record, but it annoyingly, tragically came alive when I’d broken up with someone,” she said. “I was sort of lost and all over the place, and that’s where a lot of these songs came from.” If you hone in on the lyrics too much, it can put you in a dark place — but her mastery of uplifting melodies and the crafty production (credit due to producer Jim Eliot) make this the perfect balancing act.
More than anything, Ellie Goulding happened to fall into place in the music industry right as everyone was craving her style and sound. We didn’t know it at the time, and she’s helped carve out this path herself — but the combination of her heart-wrenching vocals with electronic-influenced production is the “it” sound of the moment. Not to say that she can’t melt souls with a simple, stripped-away ballad if the right time comes (i.e. “I Know You Care.”) That being said, lead single “Anything Could Happen” is the definition of where pop music (good pop music, that is) stands in 2012.
People may find Halcyon to be emotionally repetitive, and I’d have to occasionally agree — it can be tiring to listen to someone croon about a lost love for a full album. At the same time, it’s all I’ve listened to for the past seven days and I’m nowhere near done with it. Relationships inspire all, and I can’t discredit her for pouring her heart and soul out if it results in songs like this.
Notable Favorites: “My Blood,” “Anything Could Happen,” “Figure 8,” and “JOY.”
As a sidenote, shout out to everyone that was lucky enough to be at Santos Party House for her intimate performance last Thursday. I get the feeling that we’ll all be talking about that one for a long, long time.