Can there be any doubt that Ellie Goulding is this year’s Duffy? (And last year’s, too, because getting famous is taking Goulding awhile.) Or does anyone even remember Duffy, that other pale, politely blank-faced girl from the United Kingdom who caused a transatlantic freak-out with one great single (“Mercy” in Duffy’s case, “Lights” in Goulding’s)?
Goulding has a more powerful voice and better branding — she performed at the royal wedding reception last year — than Duffy did. Her new disc, “Halcyon,” doesn’t sound like the obligatory, stapled-together post-hit-song album release. It sounds like the beginning of something credible.
“Halcyon” divides itself between sweeping love ballads and more tentative, electro-heavy dance tracks. All the ballads are of a piece: Breathy and dramatic, they’re pixie-dust-covered swirls of grand, operatic sounds — ghostly choirs, harps — overlaid with cooing, swooning vocals.
The ballads are new-age cotton candy, like Taylor Swift might have made after listening to too many Sarah McLachlan albums. But the up-tempo songs are made of stern stuff. “Hanging On” is a great, uncannily accurate cover of the Active Child original, and Calvin Harris turns up on the thumping bonus cut “I Need Your Love.”
Although it showed up on an album last year, “Lights” is included as a bonus track, a transparent Remember How I Did That Song You Liked? move an American diva would not deign to attempt.
“Explosions,” “Anything Could Happen”