Last year’s magnificent Jakob Remix of Starry Eyed and the deserved success of the single’s unfettered version raised expectations of Goulding’s debut album to nigh-on vertigo-inducing levels in some quarters. The critics’ choice gong at last month’s Brits only added to the ballyhoo.
Alas, Lights has received many lukewarm responses, not all of them entirely founded. It fails to dazzle, but it glitters in places. Its main drawback is that it isn’t as assured or sophisticated as the work of singer-songwriters Laura Veirs and Joanna Newsom, both of whom have released critically acclaimed CDs this year.
And it isn’t as substantial or plain catchy as the award-winning pop sounds of Lady GaGa, who knocks Goulding into a pointy bra-cone when it comes to alluring weirdness and having a smashing arse.
What Goulding does do (in spite of lack of a jewelled lobster mask and a high-quality rump) is write sweet, acoustic songs whose themes are mostly variations of “it’s you and me against the world, so let’s rub against each other”. And then the young Briton adds low-cal dance beats and other electro-business that gives the tracks propulsion. They’re further aided by a breathy, wavering voice that’s reminiscent of Icelandic warbler Emiliana Torrini’s.
Listenable and Engaging
It’s these talents that have scored Goulding prizes (though not everyone would say deservedly so) and which will – hopefully – lead to her eclipsing the overhyped (and fearsomely mannish) Florence Welsh (of + The Machine). But she’ll have to stretch herself if she wants to shine long and bright.
That having been said, Lights is an always listenable and sometimes engaging long-player – which makes it an ideal soundtrack to a few polite drinkies on a school night, when the urge to pogo on the furniture must be kept down.