Ellie Goulding // Halcyon // October 5 // Polydor
British electro pop starlet Ellie Goulding can come across as a mixed bag of contradictions. Hailing from the rural and frankly tragic town of Hereford she moved out to embrace the big lights of London to kickstart her career. She comes from a folk background but found relative success singing along to bland electro pop tracks that put her somewhere between the grandeur of Florence & The Machine and the camp hooks of people like Little Boots or Frankmusic. Since releasing her debut Lights she has hit big but if the sound of the follow up record Halcyon is anything to go by then it’s pretty clear that she is going to crash down even harder.
Let us not beat around the bush and quickly establish the frankly clear fact that Halcyon is fucking atrocious. It’s one of those sophomore records where average pop singers start thinking that they actually have something bold to say. Goulding doesn’t and her attempts are honestly a pain in my fucking scrotum. Halcyon has a fancy title and videos that try to bite Grimes’ style of “look at me, I’m a weird banshee teehee” but Goulding is not backing up the image and lyrical imagery with the music. The main single Anything Could Happen is quite easily among the most redundant songs I’ve heard all year. It consists of pre chorus that just repeats the song title, chorus that fits right in with your typical “ooh ooh ooh” tripe and a bridge that tries to make Goulding sound fierce but falls completely flat in the backdrop of glossy synths. Compared to Goulding, Marina comes across as a freaking vamp. Goulding sounds wild and it would make much more sense if she stuck to making something closer to folk, something more minimal and organic. Generic strings with heavily processed vocals aren’t organic. Halcyon is the sound of someone knowing what she can do but doing something different because it’s currently in.
Then again it’s not like I’m overly familiar with Goulding’s folk ditties. I’m sure they must be better than this lyrically as songs on Halcyon brings the new meaning to the word repetitive. A good number of songs on here have choruses which consist of Goulding just repeating the song title again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Now that doesn’t sound fun does it? And isn’t a record like this supposed to be about fun? It might bite Visions and Ceremonials to some extent but it’s neither dreamy nor escapist, it’s certainly not empowering either. Since Goulding is going for pop charts with this she might as well do the decent thing and at least keep up with the times. Sadly even then she fails with a lot of the songs on here being generic faceless pseudo-meaningful synthpop. By these standards the brostep influenced Figure 8 could be called something of a highlight. I have no problems with Ellie’s boyfriend Skrillex, I’d rather have something different, as bad as it may be sometimes, than your average indie rock band who think they’re clever because they play “real instruments”. In Goulding’s case it’s like she knows this and shares the same mindset, not turning this into a brilliant brostep crossover and feeling forced to incorporate strings and other “real” instruments into her sound. Tracks like Joy and Atlantis is the main offenders here, an obligatory huge sounding pop songs that make Ceremonials look like a work of otherworldly genius. The later bites Florence’s own penultimate track All This And Heaven Too. So predictable. It’s apparent that Goulding’s idea of Halcyon is polite coffee table ruitine.
Halcyon shares the same set of problems that marred Goulding’s debut LP Lights. It’s a confused rabbit in the headlights wanting to stay close to classic sound while being intimidated yet attracted to the lights of the big city. Halcyon’s status as more of the same is then weakened by the simple fact that inspirational songs on here couldn’t inspire anyone other than a 16 year old art student while her pop tracks aren’t memorable, catchy or clever unless you are a fucking moron. It acts brave but ends up sounding like schoolgirl’s first attempt at poetry. Rubbish.