Review: Ellie Goulding – Halcyon (2012)

Today we welcome our latest contributor Kimberly!  Reinforcing our global reach, Kimberly hails from Singapore where she is a student.  She brings great musical enthusiasm and we are excited to have her on board. Welcome to Mezzic, Kimberly!

You know the girl. This British singer-songwriter took the world by storm in 2010, with her electropop single “Starry-Eyed.”  Soon after, Ellie Goulding released her debut album Lights, which was a winning folk and dance-pop blend of euphoria. Two years later, she’s back again with a new, hauntingly beautiful album – Halcyon. Halcyon, as my dictionary revealed, refers to a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. The album’s title and choice of colors (or lack thereof) for its cover gives you a clue of where it’s heading. It should come to no surprise that the break-up of a relationship triggered its morose tunes.

The first track on the album “Don’t Say A Word” begins with an acoustic humming that steadily rises from the silence and gently escalates into a thumping beat, where Goulding’s voice—comfortably shrill and unmistakably hers—rides in. “My Blood” follows up shortly with a similarly chaotic mood, but fret not if you’re not liking the mess here; it gets quieter and better.

Goulding’s airy and tremulous vocals accompanied by a simple piano-and-choir arrangement make for the most ethereal ballads, with the key stars being “Explosions,” “I Know You Care” and “Dead in the Water.” While you’re plugged into these tracks, it is easy to feel as though as you’re floating out at sea, all alone with the grey skies and salty waters that taste like tears. “I Know You Care,” in particular, appears to be a prelude to the demise of a relationship; watching it fall apart, but denying it is so and hoping it isn’t the case.

Even the faster, seemingly more upbeat tracks, such as “Only You” and “Anything Could Happen,” belies heart-wrenching and gut-twisting lyrics. There’s no lack of them. In “Only You,” Goulding surrenders control over herself to someone who has arrested her heart and body (“When everything you say / I’m on my knees, baby I’m on my knees”).

But of course, amidst all the tears and heartbreak, we find minute beacons of hope in “Hanging On,” where Goulding breaks free from a detrimental relationship or lost love (“I just can’t keep hanging on to you and me”). In “Halcyon,” she sings “it’s gonna be better” on a loop, convincing herself that things will look up soon enough. We sure hope it does for her.

Much deeper lyrically and musically this time, Goulding waltzes into a more mature territory and emerges victorious. The lack of poppy goodness in this sophomore album, as compared to her cheery debut Lights, is quickly compensated with an emotional and soulful journey most listeners will be able to strike a chord with. Halcyon is, once again, a big win for Britain’s electropop princess.

Rating: 7.4/10

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