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I was obsessed for months with Ellie's song 'Lights' so I was eagerly awaiting the new album Halcyon, and while the first few listens of the album I was slightly disappointed, I revisited the album after seeing her live in Belfast. Ellie's sound is an eclectic mix of electro music and soul, with a nod to dubstep and dance.
To explain why the album was named Goulding explained, "[Halcyon is] like a bird that basically during the winter, it would lay its eggs by the sea and bring calm to the stormy waters and a lot of my songs on this record are about the ocean and water." The ocean theme and water are evident in some of the track titles and also the wavy samples in the title track 'Halcyon'.
While recording this album, Ellie was dating dubstep artist Skrillex, and it was rumoured that this album would be heavily influenced by dubstep, but this isn't the case. They did seem to get matching shaved haircuts, as shown in the album cover for Halcyon, though Ellie does seem to be growing out this style.
Her lyrics are often dark, though the music rarely conveys this darker side. Many of the lyrics on this album were inspired by her break up with Radio 1 DJ Greg James, and though they don't quite explain why the breakup happened, some of the tracks do hint as to why it ended. It's a much more grown up album than her first one, a lot darker, but somehow she makes it work. It's a break up album, but it also shows that it will get better, that there is still hope and things will get better. It could be depressing, but somehow Goulding has managed to convey emotion without being too melancholic.
The track listing is as follows:
1. Don't Say A Word
2. My Blood
3. Anything Could Happen
4. Only You
6. Figure 8
8. Hanging On
10. I Know You Care
12. Dead In The Water
13. Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding - I Need Your Love (Bonus Track)
The first track 'Don't say a word' starts very slowly. I almost gave up on this track for that reason, but I'm glad I persevered. After about 1 and a half minutes the beat kicks in, and a strong drum beat accompanies the almost anthemic chorus. It's a strong start to the album.
'My blood' is another favourite of mine. It perfectly combines dark lyrics with a strong drum beat and catchy melody. It's only when you really listen to the lyrics that you realise how dark this track is, which is hidden in the catchy melody.
The first single from the album was the track 'Anything could happen' which although is a poppy synthy, catchy track, I must admit that it's not one of my favourites. I think it's just that the repetitive sample that puts me off more than anything, although I do think it's a week track compared to some on the album.
'Only you' is a poppy track with a fast beat. It is one of the few tracks that I felt that the snythy sampling through the tracks actually added to the song. This track is very poppy, and is definitely one of the more 'fun' and chaotic tracks on the album. It's definitely one of my favourites, where again the dark lyrics are blended with the synths and vocals to make a upbeat overall impression.
'Halcyon' is another track that has really grown on me. The upbeat chorus (it's gonna be better!), the strong drum beat and the almost wavelike samples between the chorus and verses has made it one of my favourite tracks on the album. Lyrically this song jumps from the negativity of the verses to the upbeat chorus and overall acknowledges that while there may be difficult times ahead, someday it will be better. This song was also amazing live, although, for me I guess I needed some positivity at that time of my life.
Figure 8 was the second single release from the album. This is a harder, edgier sound and is produced by Monsta, a dubstep producer, and this is evident on this track. It's a stand out track for this reason, but also I just love the energy. It really wakes you up from the slight lull that Halcyon provided. This is one of my favourites on the album for 2 reasons. I love the song and also, going through a bad breakup at the end of last year, the lyrics really spoke to me.
'Joy' is, as the title suggests, a song about the realisation that a relationship is no longer happy, and you have to consider your future happiness. Joy is a much slower track, although there is a choir accompaniment towards the end of the track, which ends the track on a high note, showing that even through despair, it does get better.
The introduction to 'Hanging On' almost sounds like a sample of the start of 'Starry Eyed' which I found a bit odd. 'Hanging on' is a cover of the song by Active Child, and a single was released with a rap from Tinie Tempah, although this version is only Ellie's vocals. It's a lovely, floaty track with an emphasis on a strings accompaniment, but building to a crescendo towards the end, as with many of the tracks on this album.
'Explosions' was another single release. This wasn't originally a planned release, but after being used on the ITV advert 'Where drama lives' that people were downloading the song, which then entered the singles chart. This track starts very slowly, with only Ellie's vocals and an accompaniment courtesy of the London Community Gospel Choir, no music. It's only towards the chorus that any music kicks in, and being honest, I think this song doesn't need the drums and synths of some of the earlier tracks. 'It's the raw emotion of this song that stands out for me, and that's all this song really needs. Ellie's voice sounds like it's about to break at any moment, and it's a real heartbreaking song, yet has become one of my favourites nonetheless.
'I know you care' was featured in the film Now Is Good which features Dakota Fanning and Ellie's real life boyfriend Jeremy Irvine. At the concert Ellie mentioned that this song had been written about her dad. Initially this slow ballad wasn't a favourite of mine, but it has grown on me. The arrangements of this track are very simple, and very similar in composition to the previous track, with the choral accompaniment, although a piano is evident from the start. This song was written by Goulding and Justin Parker, who also wrote a lot of the material on Lana Del Ray's album, including the gorgeously haunting 'Video Games.'
'Atlantis' is definitely my least favourite tracks on the album. I just feel it's sung in too high a key and it's impossible to make out the words. It does seem as though this is a musical representation of an argument, but I feel this is lost in the verses. It does improve towards the end of the track when the track speeds up, but not enough to redeem the track in my eyes.
'Dead in the water' is one of the slower tracks on the album. It's a ballad, with an orchestral background, and slows the album away down after some of the higher energy tracks. This is a fantastic finish to an overall good album.
The last track on the album is the bonus track 'I need your love' which is by Calvin Harris, with Ellie providing the vocals. It's a typical Calvin Harris track, with Ellie's vocals adding an extra dimension. This was another track that sounded amazing live, as the live version had an added dubstep twist which was a nice surprise. It does feel as though this was tacked on towards the end of the album as an afterthought though, and would probably have been better placed in the middle of the album with some of the more high energy tracks, and finished with the slow melody of the previous track.
I must admit that the first few times I listened to this album, I did find some tracks weak, but they have grown on me. I do find some of the vocal arrangements a bit annoying, although I am sure that some other fans will feel that these add to the album.
Ellie has a fantastic voice and can convey the raw emotions of the lyrics in her vocals. My only criticism would be that sometimes the electronic tweaking to some vocals and the repetitive samples distract rather than add to the songs and occasionally I feel that just because you can do something vocally doesn't mean you have to in every track. On some tracks, the raw emotion of the vocals is enough for me without all the warbling. Although this is just my opinion and some may disagree with me.
Lyrically, the album can be a bit repetitive in places, Don't Say a word and Halcyon in particular just seem to repeat the same lyrics over and over, while Explosions and Joy show real maturity in the lyrics.
If you are a fan of Goulding's singles, I would recommend this album, although it was seeing Ellie live that really brought this album to life for me, and I know that this option isn't available for everyone!
Review also on Ciao
Halcyon - Ellie Goulding
Before I start this review I would like to point out to the readers who tend to message me about my reviews being too long, that this review will be long, as it is something I am passionate about and I will say what I feel is relevant and feel like I need to say.
So with that said if you are one of those people then can I suggest you go and read a few sentences posing as a review to sate your desire. As always with my reviews, this is my opinion and no one has a right to call it wrong. You can disagree as that is your opinion, but have some respect as I work hard on my lengthier reviews and not just for padding or seeking out better rates, but for the sole reason that I wrote what I wrote and that is how long it turned out. I write because I enjoy it and it wouldn't bother me one iota if the ratings system was done away with.
So on to Ellie Goulding's album 'Halcyon'. Firstly I was surprised that no one had reviewed it yet. I had sort of steered away from reviewing it because I am a massive fan and I knew I would have to do it justice, hence my comments in the opening paragraph. I thought why should I hold off writing about something I am passionate about because someone else will moan about the length (usually someone who wouldn't know a review if it hit them upside the head and shouted 'I'm a review'). So please do something more positive with your life instead of messaging me about review length.
I have been an Ellie Goulding fan since she released her first demo versions of 'Starry Eyed', probably her most famous track and hit from her first album 'Lights'.
I won't go into too much about her past as this review is about her second album, so I'll stick to that.
After the success of her first album and gaining a good fan base it was going to be interesting to see what Ellie's second offering would be. Halcyon was released on 5 October 2012 by Polydor Records. She worked on the album through most of 2001 and 2012 and collaborated with several producers, including Jim Eliot, Starsmith, Billboard, Justin Parker, MONSTA, Madeon and Mike Spencer. Ellie would also be joined on a single by Tinie Tempah to return the favour for appearing on his 'Wonderman' single and getting him noticed. She would also appear as a guest vocalist on Calvin Harris' 'I need Your Love' single, which would also be included on the album.
In its first week the album debuted at number two in the UK and number nine in the US, thus proving further that Ellie was being noticed across the pond.
Ellie has been quoted as saying '[Halcyon is] like a bird that basically, during the winter, it would lay its eggs by the sea and bring calm to the stormy waters and a lot of my songs on this record are about the ocean and water.' When describing what the album was about.
She also said, when once asked how the album was coming along 'It's started to sound very dark and very weird. This album is going to be even more emotional. I wanted to make it so there is hope. I want to make an effect whether it's happy or sad.'' Goulding added, "This album for me is a journey from dark into light from confusion to understanding. I didn't set out to write a break-up record but I think it became one.'
For the purpose of this review I am going to cover the deluxe version of the album as that is what I own. It still, of course, covers the album proper and all the additional extras.
The Album - Halcyon
Track One - Don't Say A Word
This song is a massive drum based explosion to the album. Needless to say that Ellie bashes away on her personal drum kit in the live show and it is epic. There are some really nice synthesiser mixes on this track and this is also programmed onto Ellie's personal bit of kit, which she keeps next to her drum kit at live shows. On the album track there is a stunning choir-like backing vocal that really propels the song forward and accompanies the drum beat. There is a different vibe to this track than Ellie's old stuff or songs from the first album and it continues through the album. I think she has grown up a lot and this album is more mature than the first. Ellie's voice is the kind of voice that is hard to put into a category. She has this unique rasping grittiness that lies at the back of an angelic, harmonious voice and it shows on this track. This track runs for four minutes and seven seconds.
'Here it is in my hands, in my veins, and over lands. It spreads like fire, seeking air, to pull me in, my own funfair. Won't you come, won't you come, won't you come, just don't say a word.'
Track Two - My Blood
A slower start to this one but it soon builds into another epic ballad with a great melody. The backing vocals are a mix of Ellie and her male band and have a real gang or crowd like feel to them. There is also a synthesiser which sounds like a mix better an electronic piano and harp, which blends in to the tune nicely. Another great song live and Ellie's voice is again brilliant. A lot of people criticise her live performances but she has the kind of voice that is hard to put across on a small or inadequate sound system. When she is on the right stage though, her voice can be mesmerising. This track runs for three minutes and fifty-six seconds.
'And God knows I'm not dying but I breathe now, and God knows it's the only way to heal now. With all the blood I lost with you, It drowns the love I thought I knew.'
Track Three - Anything Could Happen
Ellie released this as the first track off the album and I had been eagerly anticipating her new song. I must admit that at first I was a bit disappointed. I loved the beat and the actually melody and drive behind the song but I was disappointed in the lyrics. Then when I heard it live the first time it totally changed my opinion of it. This is a live anthem, make no mistake about it. It is a real crowd pleaser and you can't help but get carried away on the wave of euphoria when it blasts out. It has another massive drum beat and synthesiser driven core that pumps out relentlessly, especially in the tracks latter stages. This track runs for four minutes and forty-eight seconds.
'Stripped to the waist, we fall into the river. Cover your eyes so you don't know the secret, I've been trying to hide. We held our breath to see our names are written, on the wreck of '86. That was the year I knew the panic was over. Yes since we found out, since we found out that anything could happen.'
Track Four - Only You
Ellie's voice is up an octave in this song and there are a lot of voice samples mixed into the mad and coruscatingly blinding chorus. It is like an angry chant of a song that bursts onto the album like thunder. I like the way Ellie's voice is mixed to blend in behind her base voice to create a band of Ellies. It's a complex track that won't appeal to all Ellie fans but boy does it say a lot. This track runs for three minutes and fifty-one seconds.
'Only you can be the aching in my heart, my enemy. The only animal I couldn't fight. You hold me in the dark when storms arrive. Only you!'
Track Five - Halcyon
So we move onto the album's title track and a song that is now very special to me. It's essentially a feel good song with the general chorus shouting out 'It's gonna be better'. I love Ellie's voice on this track. The band blends in nicely and it trundles along nicely before exploding into the chorus. Now to the reason it is special to me. When I went to see Ellie in Amsterdam earlier this year I was placed right above the stage on the balcony. As I've got older the old crowd surfing and all night jostling for position has become less attractive. I find that the balcony view is brilliant as you really get to see the artist. This said, Ellie had just started her second song of the evening, which happened to be Halcyon. I've been to hundreds of concerts and gigs over the years and I have met quite a few artists but it is very rare that you get a connection one to one during the actual gig. Ellie walked towards the balcony and was probably still feeling nervous with it being her first time in Holland. She sang the lyrics 'When it's just us, you show me what it feels like to be lonely, you show me what it feels like to be lost. I take your hand for you to let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go.' I was naturally singing along and as she got to the let it go part she fixed eyes with me and we sang it together and sort of at each other and she smiled. She probably thought I was Dutch and thought it was cute that I knew the words or she just appreciated that I was an obvious fan as Halcyon is not a single release. It felt good to me to connect with an artist I love and I should imagine it felt good to her to connect with a fan singing along to her lyrics. It was nothing major but something I will always look back on with fondness. This track runs for three minutes and twenty-five seconds.
'We'll take a long walk, down the alleys of these houses and we'll talk, see what conversation rouses when we're alone, when we're alone, it could be home. When it's just us you show me what it feels like to be lonely, you show me what it feels like to be lost, I take your hand for you to let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go. It's gonna be, it's gonna be better.'
Track Six - Figure 8
So we come to the album's first out and out pop song and instant sure-fire hit and what a belter it is. This is an epic song that exudes class and is everything that a good pop song should be. I'd like to point out here again that when I say pop song when talking about an Ellie song, it is not you bog-standard pop effort; it is more of an electronica driven pop song with a lot more depth than your run-of-the-mill pop effort. This song was also superb live and the Paradiso in Amsterdam absolutely rocked. This track runs for four minutes and seven seconds. Second single release from the album.
'I chased your love around a figure 8. I need you more than I can take. You promised forever and a day and then you take it all away.'
Track Seven - Joy
Time to slow it all down after the last epic track. Ellie's angelic voice is beautiful on this track. I love the way this track seems to have a whole orchestra behind it and it builds up over the track before a choir of angels burst through in to the main crux of the song. When it does burst into life it is so uplifting and for some reason reminds me of Christmas and all the things that are good about the world. This tracks runs for three minutes and fourteen seconds.
'I've figured out that joy is not in your arms. I know I'll always ache with an empty heart. I think it's time to run cause I'm seeing stars; I'm seeing stars watch me fall apart.'
Track Eight - Hanging On (edit)
This was another hit and you will probably know it from the single release when Tiny Tempah performed on the song. It is probably my least favourite track on the album. This version for me is better than the single release because it doesn't contain Tinie Tempah's rap. Don't get me wrong, Tinie is Ok and I loved his collaboration with Ellie on his single 'Wonderman', but on this song it just doesn't work for me. He comes into the song and it seems to destroy it and the swearing also seems out of place on an Ellie song. This edited track lasts three minutes and twenty-two seconds. First single release from the album.
'Touch me and then turn away and put your hands into the flame. Tell me if you feel this pain, cause I don't want to be a ball and chain, nooo. I just can't keep hanging on, to you and me.'
Track Nine - Explosions
This track is possibly my favourite song on the album. Either that or I have accidently played it over one thousand times according to my Last FM track listings. It is essentially a ballad, a love song and a powerful, emotional song. I love it. Ellie's voice on this song is absolutely sublime. I love the angelic backing vocals and the piano, which breezes through the track. The drums have an ambient feel to them that is quite haunting and yet peaceful at the same time. The lyrics are great too and it really hits you once you get them. For anyone who has the cheek to say that Ellie can't sing, I suggest you listen to this track. Can't say enough about how much I love this song. This track runs for four minutes and four seconds. Third single release from the album.
'And as the floods move in and your body starts to sink, I was the last thing on your mind, I know you better than you think. Cause it's simple darling, I gave you a warning, now everything you own is falling from the sky in pieces. So watch them fall with you, in slow motion, I pray that you will find peace of mind and I'll find you another time....I'll love you, another time. Explosions...on the day you wake up needing somebody and you've learned it's okay to be afraid, but it will never be the same.'
Track Ten - I Know You Care
A piano starts this track off with another angelic choir of Ellies chanting. Ellie's voice sounds brilliant again and it is another beautifully crafted song. Again the lyrics are heart-felt and emotional. It's one of those songs that makes you feel like crying and you're not quite sure why? A great ballad and a lovely song to follow on from the brilliance of the last track. Many you may know the track from the touching film 'Now is Good' starring Dakota Fanning, where she played a girl who is coming to terms with a terminal illness. Those of you will then realise why you feel like crying when you hear this track. The video to this song was made up of clips from the movie. This track runs for three minutes and twenty-six seconds.
'I used to run down the stairs, to the door and I thought you were there. To shape to the comfort of us. Two lovers locked out of love. Oh, but I know you care, I know it is always been there, but there is trouble ahead I can feel it; you were just saving yourself when you hide it. Yeah I know you care; I see it in the way you stare. As if there was trouble ahead and you knew it, I'll be saving myself from the ruin.'
Track Eleven - Atlantis
This is a different kind of track with a manic beat and mesmerising sound. It is not one of my favourite tracks but when I do listen to it it does make me realise how upbeat it actually is. It is a fun song and one that let's off a bit of steam after all the last couple of serious ballads. For some reason it seems like one of the shortest tracks on the album, probably due to having the least lyrics, but it still runs for three minutes and fifty-three seconds.
'I'm exhausted with loving, no fight in me - I'm defeated, I'm fooled, I can't help it, you make my heart so helpless.'
Track Twelve - Dead In The Water
This track is another slow song and again one with a difference. It sounds like a full orchestra is present and it really is a beautifully crafted song. Again Ellie's voice is beautiful and very powerful at points on this track. There are many samples with this track just as with the other tracks on the album, but on this one they don't seem some erratic or shall I say energetic, but that is probably due to the ballad-type lyrics of the track.
'I'm dead in the water, still looking for ya. I'm dead in the water, can't you see, can't you see?'
Track Thirteen - I Need Your Love (Calvin Harris featuring Ellie) - Bonus Track
So we come to the joint collaboration with Calvin Harris and Ellie. What a song this is and it was destined to be a smash hit even if it was not due to be released off either of their albums. I'm a big fan of Calvin and have also seen him live on three occasions, so when I heard of the collaboration I was pretty stoked. It didn't disappoint me either as the track absolutely rocks. It was brilliant live when I saw Ellie; the only drawback being that Calvin wasn't there as well. It is a super-nova of a pop track, which blends Ellie's great voice with Calvin's superb trademark electronica sound. I mentioned it was destined to be a hit and it was. It is originally a song from Calvin's 'Eighteen Months' album and features as a bonus track on Ellie's album. This track runs for three minutes and fifty-five seconds.
'I take a deep breath every time I pass your door. I know you're there but I can't see you anymore. And that's the reason you're in the dark, I've been a stranger ever since we fell apart. And I feel so helpless here, watch my eyes are filled with fear. Tell me do you feel the same? Hold me in your arms again. I need your love, I need your time, when everything's wrong, you make it right, I feel so high, I come alive, I need to be free with you tonight. I need your love.'
Deluxe Edition - Add ons
Track Fourteen - Hanging On (featuring Tinie Tempah)
This is the aforementioned rap version of the album edit with Tinie Tempah rapping on it. I think I have already said all I can about this track but I will say that although is name is pronounced 'Tiny', it does sound rather tinny on this song. This track runs for four minutes and fourteen seconds.
Track Fifteen - Lights (single version)
The single release version of the this brilliant song from Ellie's first album. Still an amazing track and one of my favourites. Fantastic live. This track runs for three minutes and thirty-one seconds.'Noises, I play within my head. Touch my own skin and hope that I'm still breathing, and I think back to when my brother and my sister slept, in an unlocked place, the only time I feel safe. You show the lights that stop me turn to stone, you shine it when I'm alone. And so I tell myself that I'll be strong and dreaming when they're gone. Cause they're calling, calling, calling me home, calling, calling, calling home, you show the lights that stop me turn to stone, you shine it when I'm alone. Home.'
Track Sixteen - Ritual
I love this song and wish it was included on the normal album so that more people could get to hear it. It is another pop epic and very upbeat and lively. It has another thrashing drum beat that thumps along and the lyrics are good. This track runs for three minutes and fifty seconds. This is one of my favourite tracks from the deluxe album. I was disappointed that Ellie didn't play it live.
'We run into a blazing fire, we hold our heads up high tonight, and we breathe the smoke, the fear real, we let our hearts subside tonight. But it marks my skin 'cause I know I've sinned, and it plagues the air, on my house looming. There's a sound out here in the darkest woods and I know my fears are understood, it's a ritual, and I know you feel it.'
Track Seventeen - In My City
Another track that I love and wonder why it wasn't included on the album. More great sampling and synthesiser play on this track. The acoustic guitar comes through really nicely too. Another great pop based song in the Ellie style. This track runs for three minutes and twenty seconds.
'Rolling down the streets in my new town, with the lights blinding and my heart played down. I think I'll get a job with stealing people's thunder, but the folks back home I'll make them vouch. You gave me wings and I used them, I used them, I used them on my youth, Yeah, You gave me wings and I used them, I used them, I don't wanna lose them, I don't wanna lose them. I can feel my dreams when I'm in my city. I fall on my knees for my, for my city. We're going off the dream in my, in my city and that's where I'll stay and that's where I'll stay, in my city.'
Track Eighteen - Anything Could Happen (Blood Diamonds Remix)
This one speaks for itself and is a remix of track three from the album proper. It is not a bad mix and concentrates on more sampling and the instruments are singled out more. This track runs for four minutes and fifty-nine seconds.
Track Nineteen - Without Your Love
Another track that should have been included on the album proper for me. I really enjoyed this track live and you could see that it meant a lot to Ellie. As she sang the 'Without your love, I'm getting somewhere', you could see the wry smile on her face as she triumphed over an obvious break up in her past. Another massive drum beat based song with Ellie again plodding away live on her personal drum. This track runs for four minutes and twenty seconds.'Sooner or later I'll be heading home. Sooner or later I'll be on my own. June into summer; I'll wear out my shoes. June into summer; got nothing to lose. Without your love I'm getting somewhere.'This sees the end of the album but you also get music videos for all the single releases and a behind the scenes tour video called 'Paper planes and playground games', which is rather fun and gives you an insight into Ellie in her life as a singer songwriter.
This is such a great album and it gets better and better over time. There is a revamped version about to be released called 'Halcyon Days' and it includes the brilliant new single 'Burn', which will be released in the UK on August 18th 2013. The video is already available to watch. I can't say enough about Ellie. She is a talented girl and deserves all the plaudits she receives. This album is a showcase of that skill and I think she has a great career ahead of her and I certainly hope she does have. Not only is she talented but she's a lovely girl as well with a great temperament.
Many of my friends might think it is strange that I am into this type of music but I have varied tastes. I have seen Bruce Springsteen numerous times and I'm into bands such as Infadels, Blood Red Shoes and too many other bands to mention. I still love my eighties stuff and I am a massive Simple Minds and Duran Duran fan and the scope of my tastes covers many different genres.I wouldn't say I was into pop music per se but Ellie's brand of music I like. I have always been a fan of electronic pop and indeed electronica, so Ellie's music and particularly this album, ticks a lot of boxes for me.This album shows how far Ellie has come in the last three years and has a certain maturity lying below the electro pop epic style. The obvious comparisons to dance will be sounded out but this will come about more from the remixed versions of Ellie's songs rather than the album tracks themselves.I would recommend this album to anyone who likes a good tune, whether it be a big beat pop song or a ballad; there is something for most here. The deluxe version is worth getting for the extra songs and videos.
I give Halcyon five out of five stars.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Don't Say a Word
2 My Blood
3 Anything Could Happen
4 Only You
5 Figure 8
7 Hanging On (featuring Tinie Tempah)
9 I Know You Care
10 Dead in the Wate