But fans of her previous release, the debut album Lights, might find themselves doing a musical double-take at first. Is this the same Ellie whose fresh, honest songs and sound made Lights so immediately easy to like?
Well, yes and no. But it’s all good.
That’s because Halcyon reflects a brilliant flash forward for this 25-year-old British folktronic wunderkind (okay, I just really wanted to say British folktronic wunderkind). The sparse production and narrower range of her first album, though inviting and charming, have suddenly given way to a stunning musical maturity and wide array of styles, evoking themes and layers of emotion worth many a listen.
It’s a phenomenon not unheard of for new artists, the best ones anyway. Another recent example is Philly-based powerhouse Halestorm, whose first (namesake) album, though pure and raw rock, is far exceeded in all respects by their second studio effort, “The Strange Case of…” Debut albums often represent where a band or artist has come from in their formation, like those early original tunes that first clicked in front of the local fans in small clubs and concerts. It’s the follow-up record that tells where they’re going. For both Halestorm (Lzzy Hale and the boys) and Ellie Goulding, that’s far and fast.
I have to admit — on my first time through Halcyon, I was so surprised at what I was hearing that I actually stopped after the third song. I realized that I was listening to it wrong. So I forgot about the earlier Ellie I’d heard on Lights and started again. Then it all made sense. And though I’ve now played it many times through, I’m still discovering wonderful things. A sure sign of talent made to last.
Some standouts from Halcyon include My Blood (which echoes the legendary Kate Bush for me), title tune Halcyon, Figure 8 (with the catchy lyrical hook “I chase your love around a figure 8, I need you more than I can take…”), and In My City (from the extended album, which I recommend).
And just to highlight the variety of great songs and songwriting skills on this album, I offer these random observations…
If you know Flyleaf and their just-now-leaving lead singer Lacey, you might be reminded of their quieter-side on songs Atlantis and Explosions — there’s something about these two and Ellie’s delivery of them that makes me think of Lacey unplugged (which is high praise indeed).
And if you like Bat for Lashes, have a listen to Dead in the Water. It dives into the moody realm of Natasha Khan (another fave).
So there you have it, folktronica fans — it sounds like Ellie’s no flash in the pan. Expect only brighter lights ahead.
A random music review by John Klobucher
author of Lore of the Underlings