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Review: Ellie Goulding adds a sensitive touch to electronic dance music in ‘Halcyon’

Among the English artists conspicuously missing from the London Olympics’ closing ceremony — the so-called “Symphony of British Music” that featured performances by the Who, One Direction and dozens more — was Ellie Goulding, whose 2010 electro-pop debut, “Lights,” topped U.K. charts before breaking here this past summer. But maybe Goulding was excluded because she’d already taken part in another era-defining event across the pond: the wedding last year of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The singer’s fine sophomore disc demonstrates why the latter occasion — at which she serenaded the royal couple with a version of Elton John’s “Your Song” — was better suited to Goulding’s talents. On “Halcyon” she 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.

And like many of those she sounds most engaged when nursing heartbreak, as in the beautiful “My Blood” and a devastating disco-goth rendition of “Hanging On” by L.A.'s Active Child. (Though she’s currently involved with EDM superstar Skrillex, Goulding has said “Halcyon” documents her split from BBC DJ Greg James.) But she pulls off clubland uplift too: “Anything Could Happen,” this record’s irrepressible lead single, is a bouncy rave jam complete with backing vocals by the London Community Gospel Choir. It would’ve sounded great at the Olympics.

“Halcyon”

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Ellie Goulding

(Cherrytree/Interscope)

Three stars

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