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Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven Review

Assured and immediate, the dance-pop tones Ellie Goulding strikes through with on Higher Than Heaven is a treat. Goulding has hit on the point of pop and channelled it consistently. Or at least has magnetised that key treat dance-ready music can offer. Escapism. Even with that turn, Goulding presents optimistic and upbeat tracks that ring true to the current scope of the pop fundamentals. Lonely adoration for the self and a need to move on, the empty promise to the self to push on through. Independence, isolation, it all spills through with conviction and a real, engaged hope. Cure for Love? Goulding may have one, and Higher Than Heaven proves particularly useful as an antidote to hopelessness. 

Upbeat and energetic as all solid dance-pop is, Goulding trades in the dangers of rougher troubles with the symmetry found in the crestfallen-but-optimistic attitudes spread through these tracks. Higher Than Heaven is dependable but marks a bold statement in its title that it can never quite achieve. Those lofty heights are rare to the genre and rarer still to a career that began with The Writer. Dark days. That never-ending cycle came to a close though and the shift Goulding has made into dependable synth-wave stylings is a neat touch which overlaps consistencies elsewhere. Chills from new experiences are right at the heart of Love Goes On, and so too are those consistent methods of contemplating love and broad theme. At the very least, those immediate and constant appraisals are mixed well. 

Higher Than Heaven rolls over nicely with that in mind, its mixing and crashing instrumentals sprinkled with enough variation on the topic that it never stagnates. It never impresses either, but the fine line is drawn and gives Goulding a platform to work through some lyrical ventures. Title track Higher Than Heaven is the powerful centre that Goulding works around. Everything feels a tad expected. Her best track is the title, it is preceded by the weakest song of the album, Easy Lover, and the visualisations on the cover are for that of everything else. Drowning, swimming against the current, it all has the inspired hopes of pulling people out of a rut. Goulding does that admirably but loses steam halfway through the album.  

Muffled tones on Waiting For It give the listener something to wait for and nothing to receive. Goulding is pushing further and further for what she can do with her art. Whether she has hit on the fine line between solid pop riffs and particular, articulate points is yet to be seen. Higher Than Heaven is a close shot at that but falls to pieces lyrically in its latter half. Goulding provides more evidence of her excellent voice and the presence it can provide to her work. With stronger words behind her, there is room for a powerful dance-pop style. Instead, the twinkling latter half finds no explosive second to it, no desire to continue on what the first half of the album provided. Solid, dance-pop routines are cast aside for risky choices where the reward is minimal. Goulding plays catch-up with contemporaries but covers good ground throughout that first half. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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