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Review: Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

Yes, FINALLY. The wait is over, putas.

Ellie Goulding is flawless, period. Her debut album Lights showed her ability to convey heartbreak and vulnerability in her lyrics in a way that is truly convincing and relatable, without coming off as corny or oversentimental (I'm looking at you, Adele). Another thing that sets her apart from other artists is her fresh, unique combination of celestial synthpop and indie folk that is equal parts danceable and organic. Considering what I was going through back then, I instantly related to almost every track.

Hot on the heels of her sleeper hit "Lights," Ellie's second offering Halcyon marks a darker departure from her previous material. Musically, the album veers into a moodier, more atmospheric direction, but still retains the electronic edge of her debut, while also incorporating epic anthems and hard-edged beats. Her vocals are gutsy and occasionally aggressive, and her lyrics are deeper and even more personal. According to her official site, Halcyon describes "a journey out of heartache and towards hope, from desolation to renewed faith in the future."

The question is, can Halcyon top the impeccable Lights? Well, we'll see.

"Don't Say a Word" (3/10)

"My Blood" (9/10)
We all know Ellie has a flair for the dramatic, right? "With all the blood I lost with you / It drowns the love I thought I knew," Ellie griefs the end of a relationship in the song's chill-inducing chorus, her soaring vocals sounding as fragile and vulnerable as ever, complete with echo-y, ghostly sound effects and Florence + the Machine-esque harps. Simply majestic.

"Anything Could Happen" (9/10)
I must admit I wasn't initially all that excited about this song, as I felt it wasn't as strong as her past material. However, it has grown on me after a few listens. "Anything Could Happen" is a bubbly tune with an underlying darkness to it, featuring Ellie's siren vocals over rave-y, cascading synths and a catchy hook. I just don't really get the part where she says "I'll give you everything you need" (three times), and then she's like, "But I don't think I need you." I wonder if this is what she said to Skrillex when they reportedly headed to splitsville. Or should I say "Skrill-Ex"? Cue laugh track.

"Only You" (8/10)
With its thumping beats, sizzling synth line and chipmunk vocals in the chorus, this fuzzy electropop track sounds a lot like something Passion Pit could have done. In fact, Ellie is no stranger to the Massachusetts band, seeing that she did an awesome cover of their signature song "Sleepyhead" back when she was starting out.

"Halcyon" (9/10)
On the wistful, bittersweet title track, Ellie desperately wants to keep her relationship alive, even though it's doomed to fail. "You show me what it feels like to be lonely / You show me what it feels like to be lost," she wails vulnerably, as stuttering synths kick in towards the chorus. Personally, I would say it harks back to the twinkling electro-folk of Lights.

"Figure 8" (10/10)
FUCK, this song is the very definition of epic. Hands down the best song on the album, in my humble opinion. I just love how it alternates downtempo verses with the pulsating, larger-than-life dubstep bassline of the chorus. The powerful, bittersweet lyrics describes a one-sided love, as Ellie keeps chasing a guy's love infinitely, never finding the end. He promised he would be with her "forever and a day," but then he broke his promise by leaving her. Despite the major Skrillex influence, he had no involvement whatsoever in this album. Also, Ellie has recently confirmed that this is going to be the next single from the album!! And to my surprise, the music video came out last night!!! I'm not used to expressing this much excitement, but I couldn't help it, it's just too much for my vagina to handle.

This video is every bit as mind-blowing. Definitely what I expected of it.

"JOY" (9/10)
Similarly to "My Blood," Ellie expresses her heartache over a dying relationship, making use of ethereal strings and a heavenly choir. "I've figured out that joy is not in your arms / I know I'll always ache with an empty heart," she croons, with a mix of relief and sorrow. The result is both sad and magnifique.

"Hanging On" (9/10)
As most of you probably know already, this is a cover of a song by one-man dream pop project Active Child. The track opens with dreamy synth arpeggios and Ellie's fragile vocals, before erupting into a pulsating, dubstep-drenched chorus. You can't imagine how thrilled—and relieved—I was to learn that a solo version of the song would make it to the album, as opposed to the version that came out in July, featuring Tinie Tempah's god-awful, completely disposable rap verse, which includes lines as cringeworthy as "I barely even know this fucking woman in my bed." For those who happen to like his rap (i.e., no one in their right mind), the Tinie Tempah-assisted version is included on the deluxe edition of the album.

"Explosions" (7/10)
At first, I thought it was a little too Adele for me, but it eventually grew on me. From what I briefly read online, the song is about Ellie's father, who was absent after her parents got divorced when she was 5, and how she wishes him well, even though he's not in her life anymore. I just wish they did more with the production.

"I Know You Care" (6/10)
I like Ellie's vocals in this, but elsewhere, this piano ballad is rather bland and uninspired. Perhaps one of the main reasons why I feel this way about the song is the fact that it was co-written and produced by Justin Parker, who is responsible for several of Lana Del Rey's songs, including "Video Games" and "Born to Die" (FYI, I'm really not a fan of Lana). He also co-wrote Bat for Lashes' "Laura," which coincidently is one of the only songs I didn't like on her otherwise amazing recently released third album, The Haunted Man. Is Justin Parker the new "it" producer or something? He'll have to work his ass off if he wants to impress me.

Below is the video made for the song, containing footage from the British drama film Now Is Good, which stars Dakota Fanning and premiered last September.

"Atlantis" (4/10)
I really wanted to like this, but gawd, what in the fresh hell is the chorus? And what's with all the repetitive choruses on this album?

"Dead in the Water" (5/10)

"I Need Your Love" (Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding) (8/10)
The song is also included on Calvin's new album 18 Months (released late last month), and despite appearing on every edition of Halcyon, it's marked as a bonus track. I must say I kind of expected more from two of my favorite people, and I think it sounds a little out of place on this album, but it's still quite a solid club banger, which finds Ellie in house diva mode.

Please enter me, Calvin

"Ritual" (deluxe edition bonus track) (10/10)
Damn, this is brilliant! Ellie oozes subtle but confident sexiness with the song's witchy lyrics: "There's a raging fire and it burns so mean / But I'm ready now, but I'm ready now." Every time I listen to this, I feel like doing some sexy, ritualistic dance in the woods. My body is so ready.

It's official: From now on, all of my album reviews will contain this draglicious GIF

"In My City" (deluxe edition bonus track) (10/10)
I really love the overall feel of this song. To me, the lyrics depict a stroll through one's favorite city, where you feel excited and optimistic about your dreams and all the infinite possibilities. I know, it might sound cheesy when I say it, but that's how this song makes me feel, and I like it, so... yeah. "I can feel my dreams when I'm in my city / I fall on my knees for my, for my city," she belts out confidently over subdued techno-like synthesizers, which don't build momentum until the final verse. Too bad, I really wish I could've heard more of those gorgeously crafted synths throughout the song.

"Without Your Love" (deluxe edition bonus track) (10/10)
THIS IS FUCKING GREAT. Ugh, why do the best songs appear solely as bonus tracks? This empowering, disco-inspired anthem boasts an explosive chorus of lush synths and tribal beats, where Ellie finally realizes: "Without your love I'm getting somewhere." It's pretty much the indie version of "I Will Survive" for the 2010s. Boy, I need another GIF:

"Stay Awake" (Tesco exclusive bonus track) (10/10)
This has to be one of Ellie's most '80s-indebted songs—if not the most. Picture her breakthrough hit "Starry Eyed" on acid and you'll get "Stay Awake," a shimmery, infectious chunk of pure synthpop bliss, topped off with an anthemic, sky-high chorus. It's one of the best songs on the entire album, and yet it was reduced to being a Tesco exclusive bonus track. Seriously, where's the fucking common sense?? This song is screaming for a single release!

The song was produced by rising 18-year-old (!) French DJ and producer Madeon, who was the house DJ at this year's MTV Europe Music Awards, where he played this very song when none other than today's biggest fame whore celebutante Kim Kardashian went on stage to present the award for Best Song:

Of course, who would pay attention to anything else when the bitch nearly fell on her ass?

Final score: 8/10

While not as thoroughly epic as Lights, Halcyon is still a near-perfect follow-up, showing impressive growth and diversity. Take away the Lana/Adele wannabe bullcrap, switch the duller moments of the standard album with the bonus tracks and Halcyon would have been a total killer. Nevertheless, it's certainly one of the best albums released this year.


  1. You should have only been a reviewer for the Electronic parts of the album. THe ones that weren't electronic, you scored much lower, which is obvious bias towards Electronic. I happen to think that her more calm, rather unproduced songs are better. And Figure 8 as the best song? Really? I actually dislike Figure 8 now. Its one of those songs where you like it a lot for a week or two, maybe three. THen BAM, youre tired of it.


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