From the inoffensive cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” to its cutesy singles “Starry Eyed” and “The Writer,” Ellie Goulding’s 2010 debut album, Lights, was often criticised for its inherent winsome and twee tendencies. However, after abandoning her wholesome girl-next-door look, the 25-year-old may just silence her critics after venturing into darker territory for her follow-up, Halcyon, a subtle progression from the folk-tronica of its predecessor that’s been self-described as an ‘accidental break-up record‘. Here’s a look at five of its most heart-pouring moments:

My Blood

Goulding wastes little time in alluding to the recent turbulence in her increasingly high-profile love life with a series of dramatic metaphors, which like early release “Guns and Horses,” sees her once again step onto love’s battlefield. Initially a hushed synth-pop number with some slightly gruesome references to ‘bleaching bones’ and ‘fleeing flesh,’ “My Blood” then bursts into life with an epic and euphoric chorus lent an extra spiritual gravitas by a spine-tingling gospel choir: [LISTEN]

The lost dreams I buried in my sleep for him

And this was the ecstasy of love forgotten

And I’m thrown in the gunfire of empty bullets

And my blood is all I see as you steal my soul from me

JOY

Another achingly honest confessional tale which would no doubt leave former DJ boyfriend Greg James feeling slightly awkward should it ever make it onto the Radio 1 playlist, “Joy” is typical of the album’s ability to snatch optimism from the jaws of misery. Possessing something of a hymnal quality, Goulding describes the agony of realising she’s with the wrong man before a flurry of neo-classical strings and triumphant operatic melodies appear to inspire the epiphany that everything’s going to be alright: [LISTEN]

I’ve figured out that joy is not in your arms

I know I’ll always ache with an empty heart

I think it’s time to run cos I’m seeing stars

I’m seeing stars, watch me fall apart

Figure 8

Surprisingly the only track on Halcyon to even hint that boyfriend Skrillex was allowed anywhere near the studio, although “Figure 8” is more at the Katy B-esque dub-pop end of the spectrum rather than the speaker-blowing beats and demonic basslines favoured by the ‘bro-step’ crowd. One of the few potential singles on a record which doesn’t appear too concerned with chasing hits, Goulding turns the tables by playing the wronged woman to perfection on a tale of infatuation and ultimately resignation which comes equipped with a brilliantly clever line that could be adapted as the official motto for the tragic ‘27 club‘: [LISTEN]

 

Breathe your smoke into my lungs

Back of the car I stare with you into the sun

Still not too old to die young

But lovers hold on to everything

Anything Could Happen

Containing a gorgeously ethereal melody which recalls Kate Bush in her 80s prime, lead single “Anything Could Happen” was the ideal choice to first showcase Goulding’s maturity as a songwriter. Providing a nu-synth twist to the celestial folk-pop of her debut, its repetitive mantra of the title signifies the song’s idealistic ambition to inspire positivity. But its balance of nostalgic and post-apocalyptic themes ensures that its self-help intentions avoid descending into schmaltz and self-importance: [LISTEN]

After the war we said we’d fight together

I guess we thought that’s just what humans do

Letting darkness grow

As if we need its palette and we need its colour

Only You

Adopting an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to its production, “Only You” throws in a banshee-esque vocal loop, a speeded-up chorus which sounds like Alvin & The Chipmunks were let loose in the studio and some soaring choral harmonies on an adventurous slice of strangely uplifting gloom-pop. Despite the surrounding chaos, Goulding’s message is crystal clear as she expresses the comfort and safety she feels when with her soul-mate on the record’s most unashamedly romantic moment: [LISTEN]

Only you can be the aching in my heart my enemy

The only animal I couldn’t find

You hold me in the dark when storms arrive

Only you

Only you can see the emptiness I feel when you’re with me

When everything you say I’m on my knees