Everything you might have known about Ellie Goulding can be completely erased from your memory as you start over again. What was once rainbows and unicorns is now a black skirt with a cocktail in one hand and a microphone in the other. Ellie has a newfound confidence as Halcyon shows off a strong personality which gives her a deeper presence that could lead to more than just that lucky one hit.
Her voice is used for its strengths on this album as the songs are built around it rather than trying to fit into them. There are less direct vocal effects than on her debut album, allowing her to actually stand strong in the mix of music that is usually huge and filled with layers of beats, synths and airy electronica. The album starter Don’t Say A Word, reveals Ellie’s true vocals as the first portion of the song are sung a capella, albeit with heavy reverb but done in a way that they still show off her raspy yet saccharine sweet vocals. Much of the record, like that song and the captivating My Blood is Ellie channelling Florence‘s Ceremonials record. Huge production that Ellie takes complete ownership with sweeping melodies featuring ups and downs both within and between songs.
While the album’s production takes Ellie’s sound to the depths of huge drums and raving synths, it’s her voice that takes centre stage. Sometimes showing elements of a Dolly Parton quality with a slight hint of shimmering quiver that shines through in songs like Anything Can Happen, while slightly departing from that on I Know You Care, which sounds like Australian singer/songwriter Lissie.
Despite the tightly-packed production led by Jim Eliot (with Ellie co-controlling the boards), sometimes there is too much Ellie. Hanging On uses some of the production style and effects from pre-Halcyon that ends up being too distracting from the song’s positive qualities such as the hypnotic stringed notes and beat build-up. Atlantis, meanwhile, is too chirpy even for her and sits as the album’s weakest track.
Halcyon is the musical sister to a movie set in an adventure/fantasy world with magic, dragons and trolls. Hogwarts meets Narnia with dark undertones. What this year’s hit Lights has done is direct attention toward her with this album deservingly on the receiving end of. Luckily, it’s also featured on the deluxe version of this record so you can skip over the first album and rightfully let this one your introduction to Ellie Goulding. One of the year’s brightest pop singers with one of the year’s brightest pop records. 2013 could be a big year for her.
1. Don’t Say A Word
2. My Blood
3. Anything Could Happen
4. Only You
6. Figure 8
8. Hanging On
10. I Know You Care
12. Dead In The Water