Review By: Erin O'Connell
When Ellie Goulding released her debut album titled “Lights” in 2010, she seemed to skyrocket into the spotlight. The debut album received a lot of positive attention and built extreme anticipation for a second album. Finally in late 2012 Goulding released her second album titled “Halcyon”. She is known for her delicate yet strong voice, and one of a kind timbre within her sound. This second album shows off those talents and then some. Recently EDM music has become more of an influence for many indie artists. Goulding embraces this influence and makes it her own. The album begins with a song titled “Don’t Say a Word”. The piece begins with a very eerie quality to it. This is achieved by using only her singing voice with a strong distant echo effect. As the song progresses, a tribal beat is layered in under a rhythmic vocal line. This first song is a precursor to the type of vibe the entire album emits. The second song called “My Blood”, begins a big more like something off her debut album. There is still a tribal element to the percussion, but it’s broken up by a haunting piano theme. When hearing the chorus, there is a pulsing beat bringing a sense of meaning to the song.
Following this sound is a track called “Anything Could Happen”. In this song there is a playful beat running through the entire song. This piece is like a light in the darkness. The album takes a very minor almost sinister, yet beautiful, approach to each song. Even the title and lyrics bring an uplifting spirit to the air. “Only You” is the fourth track on the album. Like the previous pieces it’s very rhythmically driven. She uses a looped vocal track in the background, giving the feeling of another instrument to add texture. The melody has very strong electronic influences making this more of a danceable track. “Halcyon” the title track comes next. It differs quite a bit from the album as a whole and especially the song that comes before. There’s a strong focus on vocal harmonies, and simple instrumental and percussion lines. The way the voices echo in-between versus gives the listener a feeling of anticipation and hope. Simply a gorgeous track and shows off Goulding’s versatility as an artist. “Figure 8” uses the ongoing echo theme to open the piece. The beat comes in strongly reminiscent of a dub-step beat. Along with “Only You” this is another dance-club style track. However, she adds in a harp element to add personality. Track number seven called “JOY”, starts out with a gorgeous piano line. A third of the way through violin and stronger vocals are added in to create a more full sound. The final build up within the song is with about 1 minute left. A looped group vocal track, and light percussive elements finish off a solid build of energy throughout the song. “Hanging On” begins with an oriental style harp and random vocal ideas. The rest of the song is less melodic and more a collection of notes. The sounds is very interesting and complex with some dub-step beats mixed in.
The album as a whole has a lot of medieval influences. Everything from the vocal echos and the open vowel voiced loops, to the instrumentation. The ninth track on the album “Explosions” highlights some of these influences. Using a very choral inspired vocal background this piece is pleasing to the ear. “I Know You Care” is the next track on the album. It is the most simplistic, and in my opinion beautiful, piece on the entire album. She takes it way back to her roots with the piano, playing a simple progression, to accent the heartbreaking vocal line and lyrics. This piece will resonate with anyone who has ever felt alone. The eleventh track on the album “Atlantis”, has an epic feeling to it matching the title of song. Goulding uses harp elements in many of the songs on this album, but it’s most prevalent in this piece. With a similar floating high vocal line, this song adds more depth to the album. The final track on the album sums up the collection of works perfectly. “Dead in the Water” is a very simple track. For the first three minutes its just her vocals with no percussion or instrumentation, only a echo on the voice. Then some string instruments with a simple bass line are added in to bring a very strong close to Goulding’s second album.