Dec 3, 2012

Album Review: Ellie Goulding "Halcyon (Deluxe Edition)"

October 5, 2012, English Electropop songstress, Ellie Goulding released her sophomore studio album, Halcyon. You may know her best for her 2010 sleeper hit, "Lights", revisited at the tail end of this album, but she rattles off great music on this album with such ferocity that it's only a matter of time before she blows up. If you like Florence and the Machine, and Adele, then Ellie Goulding is right up your ally. I loved her first album so much I went straight for the Deluxe version of Halcyon.

1) “Don’t Say a Word” – This album opener is a good introduction to Ellie Goulding. Strong vocal performance showing off her range of pitches, which may bother some people but is one of her strongest gifts. This track lays on a heavy tribal beat in the background as Ellie gives you a mere taste of what’s to come. 4 / 5.

2) “My Blood” – More catchy and dancey than the album opener, and the lyrics are really beautifully written. While a very good track, the chorus and verses don’t seem to gel very well and for no other reason than to create a theme out of the previous track’s tribal beat, we get a very tribal chanting breakdown around the three minute mark. 4 / 5.

3) “Anything Could Happen” – While not a terrible track, doesn’t live up to the standard set by the previous two songs. Would fit in great for a terrible chick-flick rom-com trailer soundtrack but just lacks depth beyond being a run-of-the-mill pop song. 3.5 / 5.

4) “Only You” – There’s an evidently strong inspiration here from Goulding’s ex-boyfriend, Skrillex here. This track is upbeat and poppy enough to put in a GTA game but isn’t something I’d regularly listen to. It’s good, but missing something, maybe even heavier Skrillex influence, to really help it flourish. 3.5 / 5.

5) “Halcyon” – Coming out of the trenches dug by the last two tracks, this track hits you hard. Great verses, powerful pop chorus. When it hits you’re not even ready for it, but it’s a good surprise. 5 / 5.

6) “Figure 8” – Halcyon raised the bar for the album but its successor meets it. For people who really like chorus’, this track is just explosive. It’s hard to even pay any attention to the verses because you’re waiting for the chorus to swing back around. 5 / 5.

7) “Joy” – With a lively group of backup singers, we get a simplistic almost church-like harmony. This track is very uplifting but doesn’t quite match the last two epic tracks. 4 / 5.

8) “Hanging On (solo)” - This song (specifically the later track collaborating with Tinie Tempah) was the one to lure me to this album. An absolute highlight of the album, “Hanging On” is three and a half minutes of songbird synths that just hypnotize the listener. 5 / 5.

9) “Explosions” – A soft piano melody with some opera background singing and the usual drum beat. I like the lyrics, be it straight-forward and deep or one big sexual innuendo, but Ellie Goulding just doesn’t master what she’s going after here. It’s an honest attempt but misses the mark. Every time she says the word “explosions” it feels like just the wrong pitch or wrong way to sing it. 3 / 5.

10) “I Know You Care” – Less of a song and more of a piano poem. Sad, sweet, maybe even bittersweet. Ellie Goulding really puts all the focus on her songwriting here and it pays off pretty well. Made me long for another dance track though. 4 / 5.

11) “Atlantis” – With a beautiful synth harmony, Ellie Goulding belts out an emotional break-up ballad. If you’re longing for a missing love, hearing her cry out in repetition “Where’d you go?” will strike a chord with you in a big way. 5 / 5.

12) “Dead in the Water” – Sounding like she’s choking back tears, there’s a powerful helplessness in Ellie Goulding’s voice. You really believe she’s facing her demise, and it’s driven home with angelic choirs and violins halfway through. 5 / 5.

13) “I Need Your Love” – Technically, this song is by Calvin Harris (of “Feel So Close” fame) featuring Ellie Goulding, but it’s in the same way any of David Guetta’s songs are “David Guetta songs” and not the song of the person doing all the singing. This is a serious electronic dance song and I’m not qualified to break down the intricate specifications of the genre. I may not know art, but I know what I like. If I were to break out the Onomatopoeias, I’d say this song features lots of IIIiiiIIIIiii boop boop boop beep boop beep boop clap! 5 / 5.

14) “Ritual” – Back to the tribal beat but really bringing it home this time and making you think of belly dancing around a fire.Where her past attempts at this theme failed, this song really wins all around. 5 / 5.

15) “In My City” – Short and simple summary - the verses and hook make this song bareable but the chorus does nothing for me. A mediocre, skippable 3 / 5.

16) “Without Your Love”- Repetitive and empty, this song really does nothing for me. After so many top quality songs, it's understandable that the album needed its weak spots, and this is definitely it. 2 / 5.

17) “Hanging On” – This version of the song keeps all of Ellie Goulding’s perfection from the first solo time around, but Tinie Tempah jumps on at the end for a little British Gangsta Rap. You may not like Tinie Tempah, or his rap in this song, but after hearing it so many times on repeat the solo version of “Hanging On” sounds incomplete. Regardless of the quality of Tempah’s contribution on its own merit, it still keeps this song at a strong 5 / 5 rating.

18) “Lights” – The sleeper hit from 2010 resurfaces to close out this new album and it’s just as amazing as it has been for the last two years. Dancey to the max and the sickest beat to be produced in the last few years. I can never get enough of this song. 5 / 5.

My Highlights:
Halcyon, Figure 8, Hanging on (solo and duet), Atlantis, Dead in the Water, I Need our Love, Ritual, and Lights

Overall Rating:
Averaging all of the track ratings together, this album gets a total score of 4.22, rounded up to 4.25 / 5. However, using my big picture, super duper reviewer brownie points to factor in ratio of hits to misses, track placement and the fact sequels usually suck, I'm bumping the total score of Halcyon (Deluxe Edition) to...

4.5 / 5