Ellie Goulding’s debut Lights reached the U.S. in 2011, but it didn’t take off for over a year. Now, Goulding is new pop royalty, and Halcyon presents a stark contrast to her introduction. Where Lights possessed an almost naïve view of the world, Halcyon shows her to have matured. Songs like “My Blood” and “Dead in the Water” take hopelessness to new heights. There are some nods to EDM—as on the Calvin Harris–produced bonus track “I Need Your Love”—but most of the album’s songs maintain a perfect balance of analog and digital. After a full listen to Halcyon, it’s difficult to fathom that anyone could have overlooked her talent the first time around. Choosing to follow her heart instead of her Billboard chart position, Goulding has crafted a perfect masterpiece with pop sensibility—clearly, it’s easy to bypass the sophomore curse when you’re the valedictorian.
By Kathy Iandoli