By: Sidney Dills, Diversions Editor
Lights, the popular Canadian singer-songwriter, pulls her third studio album together after a three year break since her last album “Siberia” was released. Anxious to hear what Lights has put so much of her time into, I listened to the album expecting something new and shiny. Sadly, I did not entirely get that from this album, but that does not mean I did not enjoy it.
A lot has changed in Light’s personal life over the last three years, including her marriage and the birth of her child, Rocket. Throughout the album, you can hear references to these changes, and her voice has clearly been influenced by them, as she sounds stronger and more defined. I was expecting the music to grow up with Lights, but there was not nearly the extreme change that I saw between her first, “The Listening”, and her second album, “Siberia”. The first album was synth and electronica heavy with a very pop princess sound while the second had synth and electro beats but a more raw voice with mature lyrics.
Although this album may have a stronger voice, I found it hard to pinpoint any definite changes Light’s musical style. She, in some songs, seemed to move forward in a serious way, reflecting and refining on the sounds found on “Siberia”, but then the next track came on and could have been easily made back in 2009.
“Portal”, the first song on the album, I first heard as a single and was astounded at its raw and serious sound. Light’s voice carries this song with very little instrumentation. The background track sounds almost like humming. A great song as a stand-alone single, a horrible choice as the first song on a new album, “Portal” is slow and does not pump up the listener for the rest of the album. Lights, next album place a song like this the late middle or last on your track listing.
The second and third songs on the album, “Running With the Boys” and “Up We Go”, are fun, upbeat. Their lyrics perfectly describe what I think Lights was trying to do with her sound on this album, saying, “Just like the old times” and “It’s only on we go, on we go.” They seem to be saying that Lights wants the upbeat, fun dance sound of her first album while still moving forward with her music. Light is ready for change, but she has not found that change yet.
“Up We Go” is definitely the hit radio single of the album and almost sounds as if it was sung by a girl duo. If you like 2009 Lights, you will love this song. If you prefer 2011 Lights, you will like this song, but be more impressed by the rest of the album.
Another complaint with this album is that it just does not flow well. The songs go fast, slow, fast, and then slow again, making the album feel very jumpy. The songs need to be in a different order. Jump to the fifth and sixth songs on the album, “Speeding” and “Muscle Memory”, and think of Lorde. The tracks are slow, articulate, and echoing. The electric keyboard keeps the tempo up to speed and the tracks’ lyrical style is surprisingly appropriate for these Lights songs. This trend keeps up for the rest of the album with the only song sticking out being “Oil and Water” which just sounds Beyoncé-sensual (as opposed to Beyoncé-Diva) and strikes me as odd.
The album “Little Machines” ends with a farewell song called “Don’t Go Home Without Me.” This track is enough to be cheesy and still have you hitting repeat on the whole CD. Good move Lights, good move.
Listen to “Little Machines” for yourself. I recommend this CD to those who like raw acoustic lyrics, the sounds of Adele (Lights isn’t a powerhouse, but her voice is strong and firm. Just listen to her second album “Siberia”) and those who enjoy indie electronica music. The synth and electro sound is only prominent on a few tracks, especially “Up We Go”, but electronica fans will enjoy those and her first album “The Listening.”