Like tweed elbow patches or chocolate bars with raisins, Ellie Goulding’s music sometimes gets pegged as Stuff British People Like. Maybe that’s because she performed at Prince William’s wedding reception. Or perhaps it’s because Americans took so long to embrace her glittery 2011 single ”Lights,” which spent nearly a year crawling up the U.S. charts. It’s strange, because with her magic-pixie voice and ethereal electronics, Goulding is exactly the kind of art-pop outsider we like to import from the U.K. (See also: Imogen Heap, Little Boots, Florence + the Machine.) Goulding’s just edgy enough to be beloved by the EDM crowd, and just mainstream enough to make Top 40 fans feel cool.
Coming off the success of ”Lights,” Halcyon could have gone for easy crossovers. But the album is slightly too weird for that — and that’s what makes it good. Be forewarned: There are harp solos, digitally tweaked cyborg harmonies, and at least one tribute to bodily fluids (”My Blood”). But they’re anchored by giant, disco-ball hooks and the type of dance beats you might find on a NOW That’s What I Call Music! comp. Goulding has Adele’s torch-singer heartbreak down on the smoldering electro-soul track ”Only You,” and the soaring ”Anything Could Happen” has real smash potential. Just don’t tell pop-radio DJs that it’s actually about skinny-dipping. B+