Ellie Goulding – Halcyon Days
by Gabby Nuovo (Journalism/Film), published October 14th 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Just a year or two ago, Ellie Goulding was a relatively unknown artist in America, labeled as another one of those “new British singers.” The almost painfully slow rise of “Lights” took a full calendar year to reach number one in the states, with various critics dubbing her another one hit wonder akin to the likes of Duffy’s “Mercy” phenomena back in 2007. Her release of Halcyon last November, however, silenced these naysayers, with tracks such as “Anything Could Happen” and the Calvin Harris-produced “I Need Your Love” blowing up on the charts. Goulding’s newest material has now been released essentially into a deluxe bundle with her previous album, appropriately titled Halcyon Days. And indeed, these days it seems like Goulding’s new Halcyon phase is dominating the pop music scene, with her newest single “Burn” rocketing to number one this summer.
Halcyon Days is packed with new content, including ten new songs and a Blood Diamonds remix of “Anything Could Happen.” Goulding begins on a happier note with the feel-good “Burn,” whose positive lyrics vaguely echo Katy Perry’s “Firework.” The single feels like a cash-in to the mainstream masses, and is quite unimpressive in comparison to Goulding’s other releases, but is still a good pop song nonetheless.
Goulding turns it up a few notches in the following track, “Goodness Gracious.” This peppy electro-pop number, co-written by Nate Ruess of fun., exudes a friendly, summery warmth. However, Goulding’s cheery vocals disguise the true meaning of the number. Lines such as “Loosen the noose and let go of the rope/ I know if it’s never coming back it has to go” suggest a darker undertone, implying that Goulding is desperately trying to break free of a relationship but just can’t seem to call it off. “You My Everything,” a slightly less memorable track, continues the trend of somber lyrics and infuses them with a mix of soul and synth.
The best song on the album proves to be the raw “Hearts Without Chains.” Its haunting melody mixes just right with Goulding’s emotional delivery: “This misery is weightless as a stone.” Her beautifully warbling voice shines especially in this subtly electronic number. Following numbers such as “Flashlight” revert to a dance club vibe, with Goulding’s continuous incantation of the word “flashlight” blending with the pounding beat to concoct a delectable house music jam. “Under Control” particularly stands out in this next section of songs. Its continuous synth tapping and alien-like noises bring to mind futuristic sci-fi worlds, while its inclusion of strings keeps it grounded in the present as well.
The rerelease also includes three covers: Alt- J’s “Tesselate,” the Waterboys’ “How Long Will I Love You” and Midnight Star’s “Midas Touch.” These additions are a nice little treat, and Goulding’s usual aesthetic brings a new layer of meaning to the 80’s funk of “Midas Touch.” The darker take on the light soul track infuses the lyrics with a somber vibe. “Tesselate” is reshaped with the strange addition of a saxophone that actually works, reinventing this popular Alt-J song. However, “How Long Will I Love You” is by far the most unique. Goulding strips down and plays it delightfully simple, leaving her voice as the main focus.
This new ensemble of music proves that underneath all the electronics and EDM, there is still pure soul and emotion in each of Goulding’s works. Halycon Days takes what worked in previous albums and reinvents it into songs that are fresh, yet contain those unmistakable characteristics of Ellie Goulding.
Recommended Tracks: “Hearts Without Chains”, “Under Control”, “Goodness Gracious”