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Review: ‘Halcyon’

Courtesy Polydor Records

While the chronology of the album may not adhere to these stages, there is a distinct difference between the tones of the tracks “Dead in the Water” (“I’m dead in the water/still looking for you”) and “Without Your Love” (“Without your love/I’m getting somewhere”). But, given that preface, it’s hardly a typical breakup album.

What is most interesting about “Halcyon” is its variety of styles. After listening to the whole album, it’s quite possible that you might be a little confused; the tone ranges from soft and sweet in such songs as “JOY” and “Dead in the Water,” to sounding like it came straight from a ’90s video game, as in “I Need Your Love,” a collaboration with Calvin Harris.

The album falls flat with a few songs, including the Calvin Harris collaborations “Figure 8” and “Atlantis.”  These songs seem out of place, mainly because they deviate so starkly from the rest of the album. But because collaborations with Calvin Harris are en vogue right now, it’s unsurprising that “I Need Your Love” has been almost completely butchered with souped-up Mario Kart-like sound effects.

As for “Atlantis,” Goulding’s voice has been altered to a pitch high enough that it sounds like a tank of helium was sacrificed for the song. “Figure 8” is the most tolerable of this group, but starts out sounding like a Britney Spears song from “Oops!…I Did It Again” before alternating discordantly between a softer sound and a jarring techno beat.

Fortunately, the album has more strengths than weaknesses. The darker and quieter sound of some of the songs, especially “I Know You Care” and “Dead in the Water,” contrast nicely to most of Goulding’s previous work. With the rest of the album, Goulding has blended her characteristic styling with several new elements, including stronger vocals, slower beats and mismatched music and lyrics to create a more sophisticated sound.

Overall, “Halcyon” delivers. Goulding has proven her worth in her second album, and despite the few songs that seem out of place, it has been pieced together with a nice array of styles to provide variety. I look forward to getting to know this album as well as I got to know “Lights.”