REVIEW: Lights – ‘Little Machines’

lights

Artist: Lights
Title: Little Machines
Label: Warner Bros.
Genre: Electronic, Pop

Reportedly describing her recent odyssey through the life of a musician as “a triumph after a dry spell” is as accurate as it gets, if we’re being honest. Having to settle down and spend time with your new family and adjust to your new life as a mother is unimaginably challenging for anybody. Fortunately for Canadian electropop singer-songwriter, Lights, she has never lost the will to write music that satisfies the desire to express herself the best she can. This is explicitly showcased in her forthcoming effort, Little Machines, which is set to be released on September 23 here in the United States.

The first song that introduced me to her music was “River” off of the Acoustic EP she put out in 2010. I thought her vocals on that entire EP were incredible and very different from the likes of Paramore’s Hayley Williams, VersaEmerge’s Sierra Kusterbeck, and Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope, all of whom were some of the prominent female figures in the scene during those years. I was never really big on electropop (or electronic music in general, for that matter), but a Lights song was always an okay choice.

Being able to prove your relevance after having been in and out of the music scene for as long as she has is something Lights seems to have dealt with really well over the course of her career. I can imagine having been signed to a label and having to have met expectations that weren’t typically set for a fifteen-year-old girl were probably a lot harder than geometry. Now 27 and having given birth to her first child, Rocket Wild Bokan, Lights seems to be in a better place and has been very excited to put out Little Machines.

Quite the trance-y tune, “Portal” is literally and metaphorically the beginning to a much-needed revitalizing for Lights’ musical career since her 2011 release, Siberia. This opening track sets the steady pace of the record and allows a “we’ll see how this goes” attitude to take over, as opposed to immediately setting expectations for the rest of the record.

The prominence of rock and roll elements that don’t reveal themselves until the chorus makes track number 2, “Running With the Boys,” my favorite on this record. Lyrical repetition starts to become a motif as we go on, adding a little more pop to her usual dynamic. The next few tracks keep the subtle high-energy vibe going. These songs sound like they’re something you would hear cyclically as you’re shopping at Zara on Fifth Avenue. Staying on track, “Speeding” contains a lot of choral elements to it, which meshed with a simple bass line results in an interesting, feel-good tune.

“Oil and Water” breaks the consistent energy level and the record slightly dips into somewhat of a drag from here on out. “Meteorites” definitely has a few cool vocal riffs here and there, though. “Don’t Go Home Without Me” is a lot barer with faint strings and drumbeats throughout. It does not appear so right away, but this closing track was actually where she poured her vocals in and expanded her range by a little more. That fact left me, and I’d imagine it’s the same for everyone, wishing she had taken this route more often through the entire record’s course.

Little Machines certainly fills the void that the acoustic version of Siberia simply could not fill as hard as it tried. Unique things like the evolution of musical equipment in itself, apart from plenty of other items, are manifested strongly in the progression of her discography, more so in this most recent portion of it. This record features a lot of really cool special effects in terms of instrumentation of vocal ornamentation, most of which you probably have heard from other electronic artists in all their abundance as of late. Her electronic music pre-Little Machines probably broke a little bit more ground as the genre itself was not as prominent then as it is today. It is not to say, however, that this new record will fail to captivate listeners. A good portion of Little Machines is enticing to both old and new Lights fans, and deservingly so. It’s nice to have her back in the swing of things. “Just like the old times.”

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by Dana Reandelar

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
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