I went into this review knowing nothing of Ellie Goulding. I had not listened to her first album Lights and had not heard any of her music on the radio (which could be because I never listen to the radio anymore). So…when the opening song of her sophomore album Halcyon started playing I was kind of caught completely off guard. I might not be able to write in a manner that compares this album to her previous album, but I can tell you that this is strong all by itself.
Goulding’s control of her vocals and the tone of her voice is quite exceptional and this is apparent right from the get go. As Don’t Say A Word opens, her voice creates an ethereal atmosphere. It immediately sets the tone for an album that is powerful and fraught with emotion. The song builds around these haunting sounds and quickly gains intensity with the addition of some heavy percussion. It is a device that Goulding employs a few times on the album and it works to her benefit.
Halcyon is punctuated with songs of love, loss, and heartbreak. That feeling that doesn’t go away just did is the lyrical line that opens the song My Blood and here, like everywhere else, Goulding conveys a sincerity and a sense of mourning. It isn’t all darkness though. Anything Could Happen infuses the album with a sense of hope and light. This song puts me in mind of Passion Pit in the choice of arrangement and instrumentation. The song still continues the idea of life after a relationship but with the exploration of the thought that things will get better.
One of the tracks that stands out the most for me on this album is the song I Know You Care. Nestled in amongst the rest of this songs, this one is noteworthy for how stripped down it feels. Gone are the heavy synths and the drums…there exists very little vocal layering here. Just her and a piano and it provides a wonderful contrast to everything around it.
Ellie Goulding is certainly not the first person to write a breakup album. Seems most of Taylor Swift’s songs are based on that in fact, but Goulding has made an album that is very personal, very powerful, and more than worth listening to.