Top positive review
79 of 88 people found this helpful
on October 9, 2012
So I am not really sure of what gives with these British gals and their sophomore "break-up" albums, but I sure do love it. I have been awaiting this album for over a year, and I was so excited it finally released. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. For those of you who were looking for a copy-cat electropop/dance record similar to "Lights", you might be . What I love about this album is that you can hear and feel Ellie progressing from the first album. I also like that I can tell she is listening to other artists and incorporating elements in the tracks, yet still keeping true to her unique sound and vocal ability. The album is part "Lights", part Florence +the Machine, part Annie Lennox, part Minnie Riperton (for those of us old enough to remember), part Bjork, yet all still strangely Ellie. This album is much darker than "Lights", and I feel like that is a good thing for the artist. She definitely can't be boxed in to a particular genre anymore.
I was glad that she didn't have TOO much influence from new boyfriend Skrillex, and though indeed the dubstep/brostep sound is prominent on a few songs (mainly the hard-thumping "Figure 8"), it doesn't take over the whole album. Based on the lyrical content, it seems most of the tracks were written soon after her break-up with Radio1 DJ Greg James, and before her new beau. The difficulty of picking up the pieces and finding your life without the attachment to another is definitely present on the album. Here's my track by track breakdown:
"Don't Say a Word" - the album begins with a haunting, lilting voice-track, much in the style of Riperton, then the Bjork/Florence Welch style kicks in with the instrumentation underneath. What I like about this song is angelic theme that briefly makes an appearance toward the end, which incorporates back into the instrumentation for the finish.
"My Blood" - probably the song that is the most radio/pop-friendly on the album (though this is definitely a pop album overall). This song definitely reminds me of a Florence track, given the thumping bass beat and the tribal elements, similar to "Heartlines" on Florence's album "Ceremonials". The piano combinations with the beat create a dreamy scene, and the harmonies on this track are amazing. She will repeat this pattern of a simple vocal "hum" that become the basis for many of the tracks. The overall beauty of this track and the strong vocal make this a great listen.
"Anything Could Happen" - the first single off the album, this track has probably got the best hook of all the tracks. It definitely gets stuck in your head. Many of the tracks have water references like this one does. The huge sound of this track is great. For some reason, I have images of the "Hunger Games" in my head as I listen to it. She really lets go on the vocal with this one, with surprising strength toward the end of the track. Great song.
"Only You" - Again with the vocal "hum" making the basis of the track. Amazing beat to it and a song that I would love to hear on the radio. To me, this track definitely has many influences of Annie Lennox, especially the lyric writing. This is a woman on the verge of a breakdown, scratching and clawing to hold on to a failed relationship. Stunned by the amazing instrumentation during the bridge of the song. Reminds me a bit of Annie's song "Little Bird".
"Halcyon" - On the title track of the album, Ellie begins to break into a softer sound with brilliant lyrics and incredible harmonies. The lyrics "you show me what it feels like to be lonely/you show me what it feels like to be lost" are heartfelt and heartbreaking, even as the promise of things "getting better" sound like an empty wish or promise flying into the ethers under the lilting phrasing of the song.
"Figure 8" - the definite first angry track on the album, to me at least. This track shows Ellie at her complete breaking point, going round and round the same "figure 8" negativity that show many people find themselves in at the end of a relationship, trying to "hold on" and finally having that realization that anything is better than what you are in currently. It definitely fits with the dubstep undertrack. Hot song.
"Joy" - love this song for its simplicity, and most of all, some of the best lyrics on the album up to this point. She reminds me of Riperton on this track. The opening piano is great, and is that an Adele influence on this track? This song seems a natural follow up to the tumultuousness of "Figure 8", the realization that "joy is not in your arms"/"think it's time to run cause I'm seeing stars, watch me fall apart". I love the irony that the timbre of the song is so beautiful in a moment of crisis, yet strangely you never lose the promise of self-discovery and self-empowerment.
"Hanging On" - a little bit of the dubstep in fluence shows up here too with the underbeat. Ellie shows off her amazing upper-register here with some real strength and amazing results. I hear some Florence influences in this one as well. This track is a little sparse in the lyric department. Goulding relies more on the overall sound of the song to convey the meaning.
"Explosions" - In my opinion, one of the best songs on the album. Definite Bjork influence here. In fact, it sounds so much like Bjork it's kinda scary. Very reminiscent of Joga off Bjork's "Homogenic". However, the best lyrics on the album, with a sound to match. What I love in this track is the conviction to the lyrics Goulding has here. You can feel how much she feels these lyrics. It has to be about the immediate after break-up with Greg James. The lyrics "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 will love you another time" are just remarkable. The piano accompaniment is breathtaking.
"I Know You Care" - A beautifully heartbreaking melody, stripped down to just Ellie and the piano, adding to the heart-wrenching lyrics of a hopeless relationship and what might have been. One of the best performances on the record as far as emotion and musicality.
"Atlantis" - Strangely the album takes a weird turn for one song back to the "Lights" sound. I thought this track should have been relegated to the bonus tracks or maybe someplace else in the album. I loved the song, and appreciated the return to original Ellie, however it seems kinda out of place.
"Dead in the Water" - This track has a not so subtle Enya influence, which works for me with the water references. In my opinion, this should have been the last track of the actual album.
"I Need Your Love" - A return to the dance feel of "Lights". Again, I felt this was a little out of place on the tracklist, kinda like it was just thrown on at the end. I could definitely hear this tune on the radio, and the dance mixes will probably be awesome.
"Lights" - Seems like this repeat was thrown on the end of the album for all the US fans who didn't actually buy the first album. Great song to revisit.
All in all, this is definitely a 5 out of 5. I'm almost tempted to go 4 ½ after the muddiness of the tracklist at the end of the album. I'm a huge fan of this album and of Goulding. One of my top 5 albums this year for sure. Glad she made a pure pop record!