Lights is the first full-length album from UK singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding, who is slowly making a name for herself in North America. Performance appearances on SNL as well a being a presenter at the recent American Music Awards.
Her sound fuses the singer/songwriter genre with electronic influences featuring lots of synths and vocal effects while a guitar is never far from the mix. My immediate impression when first introduced to her was that she was like a less adventurous Imogen Heap. The comparison to Imogen as they both incorporate the heavy electronica sound into their music but where Imogen digs deep into the production of her songs, Ellie has more of a focus on the surface presentation and the melody, which results in the pop sound that would be more apt to stand next to electro-pop artists like Robyn.
Ellie has a distinctive voice that makes her unmistakably recognizable, even if the songs themselves don’t stand out. In today’s pop music landscape where so many artists continue to follow the same trends and end up sounding interchangeable, that’s a good thing. However, the need for autotune might be required to keep Ellie’s vocals spot on with the melodies. In Starry Eyed, the vocal effects are what grabs and holds the interest in an otherwise lacklustre song. They compliment her, even if they are required to get the job done. These effects make Ellie sound crispy as her voice cuts through the music to the front and centre where it’s meant to be. Likewise, some of the notes she hits in Lights, the album’s first single in North America, need those effects to work.
She can do without the vocal effects at times, however. Her cover of Elton John‘s Your Song bring out similarities to saucy Brit-Pop singers Lily Allen and Kate Nash, who both subscribe to a more singer/songwriter vibe in their music, and both succeed at achieving a sound suitable to the songs they sing. Ellie sounds great on this song, even if the cover itself is lacking character.
While Ellie Goulding has provided a few memorable songs from this album, Lights mostly gets lost in a sea of better pop music released this year. There’s little that stands out that makes it worthy. I’d keep an eye on her next album because the capability of a great pop song is likely there. But if she’s the type to never have an album that outdoes her first, like so many singers before her suffer from, then that great pop song just might not exist.
2. Guns And Horses
3. Starry Eyed
4. This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)
5. Under The Sheets
6. The Writer
8. Every Time You Go
9. Your Biggest Mistake
10. Salt Skin
11. Your Song