Meet Ellie Goulding. She looks like Gwen Stefani’s long-lost little sister. She shaves the side of her head. Her drumming technique sounds like Meg White after chugging a liter of Fanta. She’s romantically linked to Skrillex, which is certainly a life choice that someone could make. Her song “Lights,” despite being first released during the Paleolithic Era, climbed the Billboard charts this summer and went triple platinum. She performed at William and Kate’s wedding. She records some great covers.
All of this is to say that Ellie Goulding is a person it wouldn’t hurt to know about. And what better time for “Lights” to hit it big than right before the release of her second album, Halcyon? In a record that the singer herself called “tribal” and “anthemic,” Goulding puts on her best Florence Welch face and makes a stab at her very own Ceremonials, and the result is a some gosh darn pretty electropop.
The heir apparent to the “Lights” throne is “Anything Can Happen,” a study in vocal layering and self-harmonization. Goulding’s dusty soprano gets a good workout throughout as a post-produced instrument, her every chirp cut up and reassembled as a hook. It’s got some killer lines, too: “I’ll give you everything you need/But I don’t think I need you.” The synth-heavy “Only You” recalls Passion Pit and features more vocal trickery, while the excellent “JOY” gives Goulding’s canary-like presence an excellent showcase in a heavenly hymn.
However, there’s a dark edge cutting through Halcyon, first apparent in “My Blood,” with a shamanistic, Eurythmics feel. The title track is heart-tugger (“I knew you were a fighter, but you never fought for me”) with some welcome guitar, and on “Hanging On,” we get to hear Goulding the Ghost, as her haunted heartache stings like frostbite, arrayed in tinkling strings and spooky backing vocals. At the end, “I Know You Care” introduces Goudling’s balladeering prowess. It’s affecting.
The big winner on Halcyon, for my money, is “Figure 8.” The song is high stakes from top to bottom, with a nerve-wracking sense of danger, some light dubstep and a big buildup. You can tell it would be amazing live. In fact, the entirety of Halcyon flows together so well, even in it’s less flashy moments, that it would make a great set list as-is. Make it happen, Ellie. Maybe for the 2032 farewell tour?
(2) “My Blood”
(3) “Anything Can Happen”
(6) “Figure 8”
(10) “I Know You Care”