The charts are awash ‘kooky’ lady vocalists with ‘big’ voices. After taking home the Brits Critic Choice award ahead of the universal success of ‘Lights’, does Ellie Goulding still have the edge on her cut-copy contemporaries?
Let’s put Ellie Goulding into context. She’s never likely to reinvent the wheel or set the world on fire with a mind-bending triple album of trip-hop-speed-metal-jazz- fusion. What she does very well, is bring a breath of fresh air, flavour and character to a very boring playing field.
What you’ve got in Goulding is a great little popstar, and Halcyon is an imaginative testament as to why. Where Lights fell down in much of its wet sentiment, Halcyon is driven by a punch of electro-pop dancefloor dynamics.
There’s a hint of her other half Skrillex’s influence, but there’s not a single ‘wob’ to be heard.
Opening with the delightfully understated swooning vocal ascent of ‘Don’t Say A Word’, Halcyon kicks off with the sound of Ellie laid bare – with just her angelic chimes, swells of tinkling synth and minimal tribal dance beats.
The charging stomp of hit single ‘Anything Can Happen’ is one of the most infectious and original doses of Euro-pop that you’re likely to hear on mainstream radio this year, while ‘Only You’ has ‘chart-topper’ stamped all over it. It’s a great pop exercise in subtle electronica and playful vocal remixing and the sound of Goulding’s comfort in her own space.
Earworm ‘Figure 8’ is as charming as it is personal (which is loads), but it’s bland John Lewis Christmas advert ballads like ‘Joy’ and ‘I Know You Care’ that let the record down. But come on – it’s all harmless fun.
While everyone else in her field is treading water, our Ellie is at least taking some adventurous strides of her own. Halcyon is a bold evolution that has seen her horizons bloom, without losing that Goulding touch.
When everything sounds beige, she brings a world of colour, and we should be thankful for that.