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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Review: Ellie Goulding: "Lights"

It wasn't too long ago that I was happily entrenched in my little world of indie rock music, willfully fearful of more mainstream genres that would force me out of my comfort zone.  Whether the result of maturity or a complete musical regression on my part, I've found myself more and more in love with pop music as time has passed.  So what began as happy little obsessions with Of Montreal and Stars soon evolved into an unrepentant love for Ke$ha or Miley Cyrus (some songs, let's not get ahead of ourselves).  My latest musical love affair is with British dance-popper, Ellie Goulding, whose debut is drawing deservedly mixed reviews.  But however rough around the edges Lights may be, it is difficult to deny the greatness of some of these songs.

Lead-off  "Guns and Horses" is a perfect example of this.  A potent blend of guitar pop and dance music,  it serves as a perfect introduction to her music, and may be the finest track that the album has to offer.  Her voice, which could pass as Leigh Nash's from time to time, is highly impressive here as it presents a melody that constantly evolves and rarely lets up.  Her "I would/I would" melismas are vocal gymnastics at its best!  "This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)" is equally impressive despite ditching the guitar and going for a straight up dance sound.  Starsmith, who produces the majority of Lights does some of his best work here, but Ellie's lyrics are equally entrancing.  She sings of self-doubt in a relationship; questioning every good thing and wondering if they are deserved.  In the chorus she proclaims, "This love is be and end all/ This love will be your downfall," which paints a dark, but familiar picture for the large majority of us.

"Lights serves as an awesome introduction to a talented musician; one who deserves to be heard if only for the fact that she's infinitely more talented than the majority of her peers."

The album's first single, "Under the Sheets" is just as dark as its predecessor, only this time the subject matter turns to a purely physical relationship.  Starsmith's production is through the roof on this one, filling every second of the track with something interesting to listen to (such as Goulding's "like all the boys, boys, boys" parts).  I find it strange as a first single, simply because there are better songs on here, but it's solid nonetheless.  Where Lights goes downhill isn't in these high production, dance songs, but rather when Ellie turns to ballads or the expected filler track.  For example, "The Writer" is a wholly boring and uninteresting song, but not something entirely unexpected on a pop album such as this. Likewise, "Every Time You Go" and "Wish I Stayed" are standard pop songs, and may find love from other people, but there's nothing particularly great about them.

But the album does close out strong with three solid tracks that remind the listener why they made it this far into Lights in the first place.  "Salt Skin" in particular, is a phenomenal song; unrepentant in its style and with production values that are absolutely mesmerizing!  There's this moment that leads into the final chorus where the music drops out and Ellie is left to harmonize with herself, and it is one of the album's more magical moments because of the sheer energy and beauty that it presents!  It energizes you and and makes you want to start the whole experience all over again, which is something any great pop album should do.  While Lights may not be "great" so to speak, it is surprisingly solid for a debut in this genre.  The moments where Ellie shines are where her lyrics and music combine to form something that is entirely unique to herself.  What brings the album down are the more formulaic moments that everybody knew were coming, but nobody really wanted.  If anything though, Lights serves as an awesome introduction to a talented musician; one who deserves to be heard if only for the fact that she's infinitely more talented than the majority of her peers.  If you're like me and find yourself developing an affinity for girly pop music, Ellie Gouldling may be an artist to check out.  I recommend it!

Key Tracks:
1.  "Guns and Horses"
2.  "This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)"
3.  "Under the Sheets"
4.  "Your Biggest Mistake"
5.  "Salt Skin"

6 out of 10 Stars

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