Cynics may rant on about the well-organised hype machine behind Ms Goulding since late last year when 'Under The Sheets' was first released and THAT performance on Later With Jools Holland and dismiss her as another over-hyped contrived genre-bending puppet who blends pop, electronica, folk and indie to appeal to as many different people as possible. The truth is, regardless of the hype and how many accolades she gets, the reality is that there is some substance in the music. The fact that Ellie Goulding has expanded her musical horizons beyond that of just pop (and accomodate folk, electronica, indie) is by no means contrived. In fact, based on this album it sounds very very natural.
Opener 'Guns & Horses' is a fantastic piece of folk-tinged pop with the sort of timeless chorus that will be echoed all over the radio, gig venues and festivals for years to come. Admittedly compared to the original demo version it does sound a bit over cooked as the edginess of the early demo is glossed over by the production, but it still remains a strong track.
Similarly 'Wish I Stayed' seems to have lost something in it's current incarnation compared to the original sparse acoustic-based demo.
This is not to say that I'm against well-produced pop in any way. It works fantastically well on debut single 'Under The Sheets', the imperious 'This Love', 'Every Time You Go' and it's stonking chorus, the immense club-pop of second single 'Starry Eyed' or the epic balladry of 'The Writer'. 'This Love' in particular stands out as one of the best pop songs in recent years.
The key to the songs is undoubtedly Ellie's voice - there are elements of Kate Bush, Florence Welch, a less kooky Bjork... the comparisons go on... But while there are elements of each said singer, Ellie also sounds like none of them at the same time. No contradiction. Her voice is effectively her own and in vocal terms, she transcends well beyond that of a Kate Bush/Florence Welch/Bjork/whoever pretender. This is most evident during the chorus' of 'Under The Sheets' and 'Guns & Horses' and the intimate verses of 'I'll Hold My Breath' and 'This Love'.
Overall 'Lights' is a great debut album that easily stands up on its two feet against the hype and expectation. Some of the songs may have lost some of the original edginess of early demo versions, but they havent been entirely ruined by the polished production either. Maybe I'm being fussy, but it's the only thing holding me back from giving it a 5/5 rating. The rest of the album lives up to and exceeds expectations. Hype or no hype, this is a fantastic album full of great pop songs and should be treated as such.