Ellie Goulding – Lights

March 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

For someone who has received such an incredible amount of attention, Ellie Goulding certainly seems to be taking it all in her stride. In interviews she comes across as a grounded and level-headed individual who is doing what she does to the best of her ability and not taking much notice of all the media attention. Which is probably an attitude that will keep her from going insane with the release of her debut album ‘Lights’ this week. The record itself seems to have taken a backseat. Critics, magazines, TV and radio stations have all become so eager to jump on the bandwagon and grab a slice of the Goulding pie that the music seems to have been lost somewhere along the way. But with ‘Lights’ currently sitting at number 1 on the iTunes album chart, a position it has been enjoying practically since first thing Monday morning, there must be something underlying all of the hype. Right?

‘Lights’ opens strongly with Guns and Horses, a track that will already be familiar to Goulding fans. It has received a slight update, with smoother yet more complex production, but retains the same sound that made people fans to begin with, myself included. Selecting this song as the opener was a wise choice, letting existing fans know that the girl they know and love hasn’t changed all that much, whilst letting new fans know what they are in for.

From the beginning of the album, there’s a very familiar feel to it all. Not in a ‘I’ve heard this before way’, it’s more a feeling that you’re already comfortable with everything that it sets out to do. A sense of comraderie if you will. Obviously already knowing almost half the tracks on the record contributed to this, and those who are brand new to Goulding’s music may not feel the same, but I believe it lies with the the sound of the record, and not my preexisting familiarity with it. Ellie’s voice is vulnerable yet powerful, and pertains a quality throughout the album which draws you in and makes you feels like you are listening in on her private thoughts, her dreams, the things she whispers to a loved one. Her lyrics are beautiful in their simplicity, tracks such as ‘This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)’ and ‘Every Time You Go’ telling us of the the problems faced by lovers – heartbreak and it’s ability to weaken those involved. Love is a recurring theme throughout the record, but not in a sickly over dramatic manner, it’s more an exploration of the world of young love, and all the excitement, freshness and powerfulness that comes with it. This is mirrored in the production of the songs, with tracks such as ‘Wish I’d Stayed’ and ‘Your Biggest Mistake’ containing both heavy drum beats as well as charming melodies and vocal layering. Stand out tracks come in the form of ‘The Writer’, a track which opens with tinkling synth and keyboard melodies and builds into crashing beats and xylophone parts, and the previously mentioned ‘Guns and Horses’ and ‘Wish I Stayed’. Interestingly, another highlight comes in the form of iTunes bonus track, ‘Lights’. Whilst it provides a very valid reason to buy the album from iTunes, those who don’t will truly be missing out. The song features one of the best beats of the whole album, some of Goulding’s best vocals, and charming yet haunting lyrics.

The vulnerable and open nature of Goulding’s songwriting is the best part of the album. And with that lies my only problem with the record – it’s all a little too overproduced. Not in a technical sense, Starsmith has done a fantastic job of creating sparkling electronic pop songs that actually contain many more layers than they may first appear to. My qualm lies in the fact that this isn’t necessarily what Goulding’s songs require. Pre-album release, it was tracks like ‘Not Following You’, a quiet yet captivating track featuring just vocals and an acoustic guitar, that made me a fan. That track wasn’t selected for the album, which I am thankful for as had it been chosen, it no doubt would have been sped up, layered with guitars and synths and probably ruined. I’m definitely not saying that the tracks which were selected have been ruined. Far from it. ‘Starry Eyed’ and ‘Under The Sheets’ have already become classics in my mind completely because of their ability to combine pop simplicity with something more enchanting, a dance edge, an electronic pulse that makes them unforgettable. Perhaps what I was craving from this album was variety, stomping dancefloor tracks alongside simple acoustic numbers that let Goulding’s voice take the front seat. Although having said that, it still completely does. The fact that there are no simpler numbers on the record only serve to make me excited for live performances, future albums, and the promising future that Ellie Goulding is undoubtedly going to have.

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