Pop | On The Record
April 22, 2011
If nothing else, Ellie Goulding's debut proves how translatable the concept of an icy blonde singer with a feathery gasp of a voice and a pleasant, polite beat is. Lights takes that core concept and runs it through frosty Euro-dance, otherworldly indie electro, mournful alt-rock (think: Cranberries), slightly creepy alt-rock (think: Kate Bush), even a wee bit of rom-com soundtrack-ready adult alt. A girl could get lost in all those stylistic twists and turns! Goulding, however, is a quietly compelling presence who subtly makes each song, each style bend to her wistful, winsome will.
On his debut, Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, is lonely and it shows. Recorded one winter in a secluded Wisconsin cabin, For Emma, Forever Ago is overwhelming in its bleakness. Vernon's haunting falsetto delivers confessional lyrics in yelps and whispers over little more than an acoustic guitar. It's slow and deliberate -- songs fade out, only to storm back after seconds of silence -- but Vernon's intensity keeps the album from dragging. Throughout every song there's an unwavering atmosphere of melancholy that creates a cohesiveness rarely seen in today's indie rock landscape.