Halcyon is an acquired taste. I listened to Ellie Goulding’s second studio album for the first time with skepticism, melting into intrigue. The second time through, I found myself enjoying every track, however bizarre.
Goulding is an experimental artist, mixing indie pop with electronica and dubstep. Her latest hit, “Lights”, peaked at the No. 2 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100, while Halcyon currently sits comfortably at No. 2 on iTune’s top 10 albums. The album has every right to be there—it’s earned the throne.
The music is intense and almost mystical, drawing the audience closer, urging them to listen carefully to each pulsing beat and tilt of Goulding’s innocent voice. The first track “Don’t Say A Word” gets the blood pumping quickly and easily, with echoes and synth that smoothly drop into a strong, aching thrum. The instrumentals may be unusual, but they certainly capture attention.
The lyrics are also highly impressive. Goulding’s British accent highlights her range, as she dips into lines like: “Alarms will ring for eternity, the waves will break every chain on me, my bones will bleach, my flesh will flee, so help my lifeless frame to breathe” in “My Blood.” The words take the listener through a story, they craft a powerful mental image, so different from the uninspired sentences that crowd the top 40 charts.
While Halcyon is certainly a divergence from the norm, and by no means is it for everyone, even the skeptics must appreciate Goulding’s risk-taking. She takes a typical pop style, gives it a crazy spin, and tacks on a story that sparks imagination and adventure. The world could use a few artists shedding new light; we’ve heard enough teeny bopper “sex and partying” songs to last us decades.
Maybe British artists know something the United States doesn’t. Or perhaps it’s the risk-takers that find the true reward, and Goulding’s reward is a permanent place on my music shelf.
By Lauren Puckett