Ellie Goulding has stepped out of the lights and into the shadows for her second album, “Halcyon.” The follow-up to 2010’s dance-pop album “Lights” is much darker in sound, content and style, as Goulding delves deeper into her mind to produce some truly captivating songs.
“Lights” was a near-perfect record, blending synths and techno dance beats with Goulding’s unconventional but impressive voice. Yet it was the singer’s deeply honest and intricately-written lyrics that really made her stand out from the barrage of other aspiring pop stars. Thankfully, Goulding upholds this standard of excellence, albeit with a few new twists to keep fans interested in her most recent release.
The album starts with a surprisingly dark tone on tracks “Don’t Say A Word” and “My Blood,” which are set to a down-tempo beat accompanied by eerie synths and rustic drums. Lead single “Anything Could Happen” returns to Goulding’s signature style of upbeat and introspective pop, followed by other solid tracks such as “Only You”
The album’s best track is “I Know You Care,” which takes a more stripped-down approach with piano-centric instrumentals and a chorus scattered through the song. The song sounds more like a reassurance than a bold declaration of feeling, which is heartbreaking and beautiful to hear.
“Halcyon” plays to Goulding’s strengths — her vocal versatility and lyrical skills. Her voice is alternately controlled and free on tracks like “Only You.” An interesting innovation in this album is the incorporation of dubstep elements, like the smashing bass featured in “Hanging On.” The technique is used subtly and sparingly, but enough to give the album a decidedly more trance-like feel than its dance-pop predecessor.
However, a noticeable flaw in “Halcyon” is the relative lack of depth in many of Goulding’s songs. The lyrics and choruses are more repetitious than in her best work, and many of the verses are disappointingly unoriginal. A prime example of this is the album’s opening track, “Don’t Say A Word,” which repeats the same phrase for nearly two minutes.
Still, “Halcyon” is a solid second album. Goulding has managed the nearly impossible task of maintaining her original sound while heading in a new and interesting direction that leaves listeners in eager anticipation of her next musical venture.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 9 print edition. Alexandria Ethridge is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]