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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ellie Goulding - Lights

Having won the Critics’ Choice Award at The Brit Awards and the coveted BBC Sound Of 2010 poll, it is little wonder that Ellie Goulding’s debut arrives under a hefty weight of expectation.

At the heart of Lights is a really promising songwriter. The album may land on the poppy side of folktronica, but there is emotional depth to Goulding’s themes. When you peel away the shimmering production, her vocal has a pleasingly elfin vulnerability to it; at times coming across like Julia Stone, elsewhere Bjork. Album-closer Salt Skin shows impressive invention with its mixture of electronica and a rousing choir in the chorus, opener Guns and Horses is a nice folk-pop introduction, while the breathless Wish I’d Stayed and the bold Under The Sheets give examples of her fine lyricism.

It’s a shame, then, that the overtly shiny production often makes things feel MOR, like The Writer, which buries a sweet ballad beneath radio-friendly cheese. Also, the fact that she is pulling in so many familiar directions makes Lights sound too much like the result of a record company’s mathematical equation: Florence divided by Laura Marling multiplied by La Roux plus Little Boots equals a new unit-shifting superstar. For a debut, Lights is more than decent, but something simply doesn’t ring true about its more poptastic parts. It leaves one wondering what Ellie Goulding would sound like were she not accompanied by the bells and whistles of the hype machine. One senses things would have been edgier and therefore a bit more satisfying. And therein lies the problem with the mainstream lauding an artist so highly at such an early stage in their career.

Review by Rob Townsend