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Deluxe two CD follow-up to her 2012 sophomore release Halcyon. Halcyon Days is a 28 track deluxe which features collaborations with Madeon ("Stay Awake"), DJ Fresh ("Flashlight"), and Nate Ruess from fun., who wrote "Goodness Gracious" especially for Goulding. The release also includes Ellie's cover of Alt-J's "Tessellate." Los Angeles hitmaker Greg Kurstin produced Halcyon Days' lead-off track, the beautifully dramatic "Burn."
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Ellie Goulding has done this twice now. First came Lights, then came Bright Lights, the same album with a number of bonus tracks. Okay, she was still establishing herself at that point, and that was a way to get some more product out there to support her popularity as it took a while for the "Lights" single to catch on. Her proper follow-up, Halcyon, was great. Now comes the same album with an entire album's worth of new songs tacked on. Of course, to get it, you have to repurchase Halcyon. (By the way, "Lights" is a bonus track on that album. So, if you bought all of Goulding's releases up to this point, you've bought this song four times! As great as that song is, that's just not fair to the buyer.)
The solution would seem to be to download the individual tracks, if you already have Halcyon. The pricing doesn't work out in the customer's favor yet again, though.
I don't usually comment on price, but this is just too lousy a trend not to write about. Please, Ellie, release new music on its own. This rapid-fire rereleasing of albums is just a poorly conceived method of selling music, disrespecting fans who buy your music on faith the day it's originally put on the market.
The new songs themselves, by the way, range from good to very good. Nothing's bad, but only "Burn" stands out so far as being excellent.
I've probably listened to this album twenty times, and I'm still trying to figure it out. When I first started listening to it, all I wanted to do was immerse myself in the intoxicating sounds. First and foremost, that ethereal, old-soul soprano. Second, the lush, shimmering production: The sweeping, orchestral touches, the more subdued acoustic moments, and the experimental and occasionally even spastic electronica that comes and goes throughout the album.
But then after listening to many of the tracks over and over again, I finally started listening more closely to the words that Ellie is singing. And I discovered that so many of them were sad tales about broken relationships. "Anything Could Happen" sounds at first like a techno gospel song, with her vocals so soaring and powerful at its peak, when she sings "I know it's gonna be" eight times in a row, each time sounding like she's reaching harder for the divine. But then you realize what follows, when she sings "but I don't think I need you." These surprise lyrics change the tone of the song entirely.
Something similar happens on the next track, "Only You," a throbbing, electronic blues song. The song at first listen seems to suggest lust and longing, until you pay closer attention to the lyrics. "Only you could see/the emptiness I feel/when you're with me." The title track, "Halcyon," immediately wears it's melancholy on its sleeve. "When it's just us/You show me what it feels like to be lonely" she sings soberly. And when she claims "It's going to be better" it's clear she means when the relationship is over.
As much as the juxtaposition of Ellie's folky voice and songwriting with cutting-edge electronica drives much of the album, tracks like "JOY" and "I Know You Care" prove that her music can be just as compelling without bells and whistles. And they also make it impossible to ignore the broken heart that was clearly the creative inspiration for this album.
So, after twenty listens, I'm still not entirely sure what to make of "Halcyon". Is it a groundbreaking pop album? Is it a glorious, shimmering break-up record? I'm still not sure. But there's no doubt about this young woman's talent. "Halcyon" shows impressive growth from "Lights" (which I already really liked). Ellie Goulding is the real deal.