Halycon is Ellie Goulding's second studio album which was released on October 5, 2012 by Polydor Records.
After signing a recording deal with Polydor Records in July 2009, Ellie Goulding released her debut studio album, "Lights" which received generally positive reviews from music critics. The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and has since sold 807,000 copies in the United Kingdom and 1.6 million copies worldwide.
In February 2011, Goulding told the Daily Star that she had plans to release a follow-up to Lights sometime in 2011, commenting: "I'm not going to go away for ages. It'll be out this year or the start of next."
In April 2012, she stated that she hoped the album would be released in October 2012. The majority of the tracks on the album were recorded with producer Jim Eliot of Kish Mauve in a converted barn near Lyonshall, Herefordshire (the village where Goulding grew up).
Recording sessions for the album also took place in Wales, London, Montreal and Brighton.
In an interview with Carson Daly on his 97.1 AMP Radio show on August 6, 2012, Goulding explained the inspiration behind the album's title, saying: "[Halcyon is] like a bird that basically during the winter, it would lay its eggs by the sea and bring calm to the stormy waters and a lot of my songs on this record are about the ocean and water." She also unveiled two songs from the album: "Only You" and the title track "Halcyon".
In retrospect, Goulding described the album in 2015 as "very self-indulgent. It was all me, every single lyric on the album."
- Don't Say a Word (4:07)
- My Blood (3:54)
- Anything Could Happen (4:47)
- Only You (3:51)
- Halcyon (3:25)
- Figure 8 (4:08)
- JOY (3:14)
- Hanging On (3:22)
- Explosions (4:03)
- I Know You Care (3:26)
- Atlantis (3:53)
- Dead in the Water (4:44)
- I Need Your Love (3:58)
- Burn (3:51)
- Goodness Gracious (3:46)
- You My Everything (3:29)
- Hearts Without Chains (3:45)
- Stay Awake (3:26)
- Under Control (4:06)
- Flashlight (3:33)
- How Long Will I Love You (2:34)
"Halcyon" debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart and at number one on the UK Album Downloads Chart, selling 33,425 copies in its first week–10.3% less than the opening figure for "Lights." The following week, it fell to number seven on sales of 11,082 copies.
Following the "Halcyon Days" re-release in August 2013, the album jumped from number 26 to number three on sales of 15,883 units, achieving its then-highest chart placing since its debut.
On 5 January 2014, in its 65th week on the chart, Halcyon climbed from number six to number one on the UK Albums Chart with 37,507 copies sold, becoming Goulding's second number-one album in the UK. It spent a second consecutive week at number one, selling 26,456 copies.
The following week, the album sold 24,831 copies and fell to number two before returning to the top spot for a third non-consecutive with sales of 20,928 copies. By July 2017, it had sold 1.18 million copies in the UK.
The album debuted at number eight on the Irish Albums Chart. The Halcyon Days reissue propelled the album to number seven on the Irish chart for the week ending 29 August 2013 before rising yet again to number four on 19 December.
The album eventually topped the Irish Albums Chart for the week ending 2 January 2014, more than a year after its original release and over four months after the re-release.
"Halcyon" debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200 in the United States, with 34,000 copies sold in its opening week.
As of September 2015, "Halcyon" had sold 522,000 copies in the United States. In Oceania, it debuted and peaked at number 16 in Australia and at number three in New Zealand.
Elsewhere, the album reached the top 10 in Canada, Germany, Greece and Switzerland, and the top 15 in Belgium and Norway.
"Halcyon" received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, the album received an average score of 69, (based on 17 reviews).
The Daily Telegraph's Neil McComick wrote that Goulding's voice is "really something special", concluding: "[A]s luxuriously epic as Enya yet with the kind of dynamism of Florence + the Machine, Goulding's poetically opaque lyrics gain real dramatic weight. On a big, bold album, Goulding gives the expression 'singing like a bird' a whole new dimension."
Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly commented that the album has "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."
Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times remarked that on the album, Goulding "marries thoughtful ruminations on young love to whooshing synth riffs and hard-edged machine beats; the album claims electronic dance music as the natural province of sensitive singer-songwriters."
Michael Cragg of The Fly referred to the album as "a bold and confident step forward."
AllMusic editor Matt Collar stated that Goulding "dresses up her powerful lark of a voice with a delicately laced veil of digital effects." He continued, "An ambitious work by an artist intent on developing her total sound, Halcyon finds Goulding poised at the edge of artistic and career possibilities."
In a review for Rolling Stone, Will Hermes expressed, "If the songwriting doesn't quite measure up to U.K. art-pop divas like Kate Bush, the hooks always go to town, and her voice—Dolly Parton-dazzling in the upper register—mates gorgeously with electronics."
Geoff Nelson of PopMatters concluded: "On Halcyon, Goulding amplifies her music genealogy, both who she is and who she's been, in what is an often successful attempt to transition to iconic stardom [...] The outcome is a bit flawed and a very loud version of her biggest and smallest self."
USA Today's Jerry Shriver viewed that on Halcyon, Goulding "presents an edgier, more aggressive showcase for her swooping, stratosphere-piercing vibrato", while noting that "[h]er tone, balanced between girlish and womanly, is appealing, as is her clear intent to be an Artist. One wishes, however, she'd frolic in the heather now and then for contrast."
Despite calling the album a "well-crafted, stylish piece of work", Andy Gill of The Independent felt that "it's hard to love songs that try to hide."
The Guardian's Rebecca Nicholson opined that the album "isn't nearly as wet as its predecessor", but added that "the main flaw of Halcyon is that it occasionally feels a bit too much—and that's something Goulding, perennially painted as the timid type, may not be so sad about."
Hayley Avron of NME critiqued: "Mainly, Halcyon sees Goulding's quirky-as-usual vocals lazily spliced into factory-standard chart dance. On 'Joy' and 'I Know You Care' her artistry is briefly allowed to breathe, away from the desperate bombast of the suffocating backing tracks.