Album Review: Ellie Goulding – Halycon Days

By on Tuesday, 27th August 2013 at 12:00 pm

Ellie Goulding Halcyon Days coverI’ve stated before that electro-dance-pop isn’t my particular cup of tea. But one thing about it that has always fascinated me is the constantly evolving nature of the music. The sheer number of collaborations among different artists and producers generates a seemingly infinite number of remixes and variations on the songs. Keeping track of those collaborations and remixes can a daunting task, especially when they are released in different versions for different occasions. But their creativity and artistic vision make the exploration worthwhile, if you’re willing to expend the time and effort.

Ellie Goulding has, so far, consistently acknowledged the continual progression of her music. Her debut album ‘Lights’ was rereleased within a few months as ‘Bright Lights,’ with the addition of a few previously unreleased tracks and a new perspective on the album as a whole. Goulding has now released ‘Halcyon Days,’ a similar reissue of her 2012 album ‘Halcyon’.

For those expecting something like the light, fresh pop energy of ‘Lights’, ‘Halcyon’ must have come as an assault on the ears: it’s much heavier and edgier, more intent on electronica, with more pronounced synthetic electro effects. Forceful, often tribal-sounding rhythms and predominantly electro-synth instrumentation blend with Goulding’s ethereally breathy singing tone, leaving any trace of Goulding’s folk roots behind.

Goulding has described ‘Halcyon’ as a break-up album, and there is a damsel-in-distress feeling to the songs, despite some musically triumphant moments. Layering of vocals, especially in the choruses, creates a grand effect. Dynamically, the album covers its bases from boldly brash to reflectively quiet, but the lyrics are sometimes lost in the noise. The album in general is emotionally charged, with its direct, repetitive lyrics placing the listener’s attention squarely on Goulding’s sparkling singing voice.

The first folio of songs (CD 1) on ‘Halcyon Days’ is somewhat varied from the original version of ‘Halcyon’, including an extended version of ‘Hanging On’ (featuring Tinie Tempah), Goulding’s cover of the Active Child track, and the familiar hit single ‘I Need Your Love’ (Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding). The real surprises on ‘Halcyon Days’ appear in the second folio of songs (CD 2), which contains ten previously unreleased tracks.

Collaborations abound, including ‘Goodness Gracious’ (co-written with Nate Ruess of fun.), ‘Stay Awake’ (featuring Madeon), and ‘Flashlight’ (featuring DJ Fresh). Goulding also incorporates some interesting cover versions, most notably a sultry smooth jazz version of alt-J’s ‘Tesselate’. In ‘Midas Touch’, a cover of ’80s funk pop group Midnight Star, Goulding’s sensual vocal delivery offers some grace to an otherwise tacky lyric, “I’ve got the Midas Touch, baby let me touch your body and your soul”.

Goulding touches upon her folk-pop inclinations on ‘Hearts Without Chains,’ where she allows her singing voice to be a bit rougher and more expressive of the heartfelt lyrics. Similarly, her cover of The Waterboys’ ‘How Long Will I Love You,’ is sweetly sung, musically restrained, and emotionally very effective.

Newcomers to Ellie Goulding’s music might find ‘Halcyon Days’ to be a bit overwhelming in its variety, between the heavy dance sensibility of the first folio and the artistic exploration of the second. Dedicated fans, regardless of how they feel about Goulding’s musical direction on ‘Halcyon’, will certainly appreciate the new material she presents here.


‘Halcyon Days’ is available now from Polydor Records. Watch the video for its first single, ‘Burn’, here.

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4 Responses

12:01 pm
27th August 2013

New post: Album Review: Ellie Goulding @elliegoulding’s ‘Halycon Days’, a rerelease and double album:

12:19 pm
27th August 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: Ellie Goulding @elliegoulding’s ‘Halycon Days’, a rerelease and double album:

[…] just released her 2 CD re-release + rarities ‘Halcyon Days’ this past Monday, and go here to read Carrie’s review of […]

[…] when it was reissued as ‘Halcyon Days’ (read Carrie’s review of the reissue here). Goulding is on tour in England in […]

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