Tags: Electro, Electronic, LIGHTS, Music, Pop, Review
- Where The Fence Is Low
- Everybody Breaks A Glass
- Heavy Rope
- Timing Is Everything
- Peace Sign
- Cactus In The Valley
- Flux and Flow
- Fourth Dimension
- And Counting…
- Day One
- Frame and Focus
- Cactus In The Valley (Acoustic Version)
Siberia is LIGHTS’ sophomore album and it takes her in a new direction. Replacing the childish nature of The Listening is a much darker, heavier and grittier sound. Her vocals are still as sparkling as ever but there’s less of a childish tinge to them. She sounds confident, strong and improved. LIGHTS has matured in the last two years and it’s apparent in both her voice and music. Siberia is a lot more polished and the dubstep influences make for edgier and catchier hooks. The album is so audacious that her American label didn’t understand her new direction. They wanted her to resemble other popular mainstream acts but she fought for her artistic integrity and I’m happy that she did because Siberia is a phenomenal record.
Starting things off is the icey Siberia and LIGHTS’ new sound is immediately displayed as the heavy drum machine and synths kicks in. There are still some traces of her debut, like the bright piano and vocalization. There’s a fuzzy sound that overshadows the melody and it’s a bit weird but strangely enough it works. It is drenched in a dreamy air that is carried through the entire track and it’s incredible. Her vocals are much better, they’re still sweet but you can really hear a difference. The piano melody in the chorus is so amazing, cool and catchy. I love the way her voice flows and bounces to the beat, “I would sail across the east sea/just to see you on the far side/where the wind is cold and angry/there you’ll be to take me inside.” In addition, the way she sings “Siberia” for some reason is so cute and addicting. I can’t get enough of it. During the bridge, the mood disperses into a serene ambience where LIGHTS sings in whispering and haunting vocals. She gets a thumbs up for mentioning Canada and the song ends with a pounding drum sequence. First song in and it’s already better than some of the songs off her debut. Where The Fence Is Low begins with a low synth line that’s mysterious and enchanting. Her voice is bolder and she sings with more intensity as it progresses. There are heartbeat drums and clapping beats as it nears the chorus where it then explodes into a synth craze. The dash of dubstep is heavy and her vocals have a longing tone, “I’m off on my rope here/I’m off on my own here/and I find my hope here/I find my own here.” The second verse features more intricate drum work and in the middle eight she goes into delicious vocalizing. The aggressiveness that this track embodies is fantastic and the production is so gritty. I really love the percussion because it goes through many changes and makes the song even catchier.
Toes is reminiscent of her debut days due to the otherworldly synths and her delightful voice, “if you are a cliffhanger ending/I’m the one that doesn’t know anything.” It doesn’t take long for new elements to take over, like the slick drum beats and dirty synthesizers. The track gives off the impression of a mid-tempo during the verses and I wasn’t expecting the chorus to be so upbeat. There’s a bit of a dance beat and a romantic underpinning. Her vocals are vivid and it’s catchier than anything on The Listening. It’s pure pop and it’s got that magical feel that only she can produce, “oh, you capture my attention/carefully listening/don’t wanna miss a thing/keeping my eyes on you/got me on my toes.” This tune really showcases the polish her production has received. It’s radio-friendly but it’s experimental and still LIGHTS. I didn’t know what to expect with Banner but when the computer-like synths invaded I knew I was going to love it. Her light voice contrasts nicely with the killer drum beats and the lyrics are lovely, “nobody mapped oblivion/so I go growing roses in the disarray.” The pre-chorus finds her using her airy tone and it then bursts into her most uplifting hook. The synths are crazy, her voice is powerful and it all results in an irresistible feel-good dubstep anthem, “so lift it up like a banner/hold it up over me/if this war is never ending/I’ll take this love down with me/like a banner.” I really like the soft feel of the bridge because it acts as an epic lead up to the final chorus and her backing vocals are great as well. The strength put into this is overwhelming that you’ll want to shout along to the chorus.
Everybody Breaks A Glass was the first song to be released and it’s one of the more experimental songs. The verses are where the energy lies due to the dubstep influence and she performs with shouting vocals, “there are reasons you keep your hands tied/there’s certain things you shouldn’t have tried/so if you’ve got it tell me something/you better go from the beginning.” The synths and bass are so heavy that the fuzzy sound from the first track makes a return. “Everybody skips a beat/we let the chances pass/the few we held so fast/everybody breaks a glass,” she sings in a delicate tone as the song does a 180 in the chorus and floats into a twinkling piano melody. The drastic change in sound between the verse and chorus make it conceptually interesting and I like how the lyrics to the chorus always change. The bridge is a barrage of drums as the featured rapper, Shad, delivers a slick rap that suits the song and takes it that little extra mile. Things settle down for Heavy Rope and it didn’t win me over right away but now I’m enjoying its dream-like aura. Opening with hard percussion and clapping beats, it drifts into a fragile but consuming synth line. Her vocal delivery is gorgeous. The timid and raw state of her voice tingles your senses as it flows together with the peaceful melody. The chorus plays on these elements and enhances them into a hook that will stick to you despite its simplicity, “toss me a heavy rope/it’s a slip or a slope/come bail me out of this God forsaken precipice.” This is such a gorgeous track and the synths create an atmosphere that you can sink right in to.
Timing Is Everything is another superb offering with catchy synths and fun vocals. The synths come back hard and LIGHTS’ lyrics are as clever as always, “you were walking in the sunset again without a hassle/in the interim, a princess was in another castle.” The chorus grabbed my attention quickly with its pounding beats and high vocals. Her voice adds to the infectiousness of the hook and I really love the lyrics, “there I was, none the wiser/both of us, different trajectories/who’d have thought we’d be right here in this spot/timing is everything.” The echoing distorted vocals are a nice touch and I like how the energy never dies down. Peace Sign is a melodic delicacy that is so inspiring and addicting. The synth line is beyond words. It’s so dazzling and the bass underlining it gives it just the right amount of heaviness. The bass takes over for the verses which are quite dark, her voice is the only source of radiance, and the track’s true magnificence is unveiled in the chorus. The addicting synths burst onto the scene for one of the prettiest choruses on the album and her vocals are so damn adorable, “where it’s all a blur, you are the hard line/in the disorder, you are the peace sign.” It’s hopeful, uplifting and so much fun. The bridge fades into a frail marching beat and piano where her voice is manipulated with some filters. I can’t get enough of this track, it’s a must hear.
“I never meant to wither/I wanted to be tall/like a fool left the river/and watched my branches fall,” she whispers in the stunning ballad Cactus In The Valley, taking the album to a quiet place. A sweeping piano leads the composition with tragic synths backing it up and LIGHTS’ dangerously fragile voice wraps it all together in a gloomy air, “and wipe the mark of sadness from my face/show me that your love will never change/if my yesterday is a disgrace/tell me that you still recall my name.” I love the emotional pull of this song and it’s a very moving piece, more so than the ballad from her debut. The next two tracks are the best and my all time favourite songs from her. First off is Suspension and it’s the perfect mix of lush vocals and heavenly instrumentation. The intro is a blend of magical and atmospheric synths that are joined by a hard drumline. The thing I love about this track is the constant build-up as it progresses. Eventually dubstep beats enter and the way her vocals flow with the quicker melody is intoxicating. The chorus takes it to a whole new level with an amazing synth and bass beat laced with spacial twinkling and airy vocals, “I’m a ship sailing/and the seas are rough/I’m a satellite/in the space above/when I’m holding here/or I’m hanging up/I’m in suspension/you’re not close enough.” It’s so catchy, amazing and I can’t get it out of my head. The repetitive post-chorus drills it into your head even more. The bridge dips into a super hot dubstep breakdown with some nice backing vocals. The song is flawless and I’m sure many fans will love it.
The previous track is so good that I didn’t think anything would top it but then Flux and Flow came along and proved me wrong. The one-two punch of the percussion provides a dark feel while her vocals and the guitar add in a light tone. For the chorus, the melody shifts into a sensational electronic ambience and LIGHTS owns with her airy, angelic vocals, “highs and lows/there are pits and lands/on the ground that you stand.” The second half of the chorus evokes different elements as the darker side takes over with gritty synths and shouting vocals, “so, flux and flow/flux and flow.” Shad makes a return and gives another slick rap that finds a home in the bridge. The concluding chorus is spectacular as it blends the two sections together making a more melodic experience. This is one of her most hardcore songs and the energy and intensity coming out of it is great. Fourth Dimension is the sexiest tune because it’s just very pleasing to the ears. There’s still the fuzzy dubtep and hard percussion but they have a feel-good quality. The chorus is sublime as it introduces futuristic elements and her voice takes on a passionate and exciting tone as she exclaims, “here’s to such an old invention/dear, we touched the fourth dimension/cheers to such an old invention/here’s an honorable mention.” The dubstep breakdown in the bridge is fire and the section following it is so unexpected because it just falls into an ethereal softness. “I’m on moons and clouds/where worlds wrap around,” she whispers in a luscious deep register and it is intertwined with the chorus, making it even more magical.
And Counting… is the most haunting synth ballad I’ve heard and it’s breathtaking. The synths are gorgeous yet they carry such a somber air and she’s never sounded so tender, “forty days and counting/I’m going to sleep/when I wake up there will be/thirty nine more days left.” The lyrical content is very simple and repetitive but it’s lovely. Throughout the track more beats are added such as light percussion and high synths. Her vocalizing aids the haunting vibe, especially in the outro, and she sounds so amazing. Day One is the longest track on the album, about nine minutes, and it’s so bizarre. It’s an instrumental piece that combines all of the album’s influences into one piece. While it’s not my favourite, there’s something strange about it that draws me to it. It’s a bit like random noise; however, it’s calming even though it has a slightly disturbing feel to it. This is a strange track with a strange charm to it. The first of the two bonus tracks, Frame and Focus, is a blend of quirky drum beats and synth waves. There’s a slight hollow-like tone to her voice in the verses and the rhyming lyrics are pretty cute, “all those sum ups/long days, short cuts/love notes, strings stuck/far aways, close ups.” In the chorus, there’s a stronger focus on the synths which give it a nice upbeat feel, “we’re just a mess of moments/that’s adding up to where we are/and you’re the frame and focus/that’s making sense of it so far.” Even though the beats are on the heavy side, this song actually has an uplifting and pleasant vibe. It’s a lot lighter than it seems. Cactus In The Valley (Acoustic Version) does away with the melancholic synths and opts for a breezy acoustic setting. I like the fact that she gave it a different flavour from the original because it helps it avoid feeling like a repeat. I still prefer the first version because it’s sadder and it suits the lyrics better. The acoustics make it just a little too happy. Still, it’s always a treat to hear her without all the busy beats.
Conclusion: Siberia is louder, more experimental and more creative than anything LIGHTS accomplished on The Listening. I still consider her debut to be amazing but her sophomore release takes her one step further. The glitchy dubstep elements make for some incredibly interesting productions and it’s great that LIGHTS doesn’t play it safe. The progression she’s made in the last few years is astounding. LIGHTS still sprinkles a little bit of her celestial magic on some of the tracks so she hasn’t completely done away with her old sound. It’s just been updated. Furthermore, there’s more diversity on this album. There are more ballads, more up-tempos and a nice blend of mid-tempos. If The Listening is her fantasy of childhood then Siberia is the realization of adulthood and her embrace of it.
Recommended Tracks: Flux and Flow, Suspension, Banner, Peace Sign, Fourth Dimension, Timing Is Everything, And Counting… and Siberia
Tags: Electro, Electronic, LIGHTS, Music, Pop, Review
- Drive My Soul
- The Listening
- The Last Thing On Your Mind
- Second Go
- February Air
- Face Up
- Pretend (Reprise)
- Up Up and Away
I was introduced to LIGHTS a few years ago when I was channel surfing and came across one of her videos. Her voice stood out to me immediately and her style of electropop was refreshing. She has a childish tone to her voice that may turn some people off but it’s suiting for her innocent, cute and space-like dream pop. She co-wrote and co-produced the entire album, some track are done solely by her, which is more than what most artists are capable of. The Listening showcases her talent and ability to mold synths into delightful melodies. It’s a childhood utopia, riddled with a sense of nostalgia and warming love. There’s no dance tune or club banger to nod your head to. LIGHTS’ world is one of playfulness and intelligence, a place to escape the burdens of adulthood.
“The night is deafening/when the silence is listening/and I’m down on my knees /and I know that something is missing,” LIGHTS coolly sings in her whisper-like vocals for the opening track, Saviour. Packed with space-like synths and light drums, the warm ambience it creates is not only beautiful but addicting as well. Her voice is so simple and light, the perfect accompaniment for the savoury instrumental. The chorus takes you on a natural high as a keyboard is added to the mix and she puts some strength into her singing, “I just wanna run to you/and break off the chains/and throw them away/I just wanna be so much/and shake off the dust/that turn me to rust.” The whole feel of the song changes as the chorus fills it with a warm, positive aura and it’s even more stunning in the climatic final chorus. The inclusion of ad-libs and shouting background vocals makes the final chorus a barrage of gorgeous harmonies that work seamlessly together. Right at the start, LIGHTS has offered one of the strongest songs off the album. Drive My Soul introduced me to her and I knew there was something special about her the moment I laid my eyes on her. While this song carries on with the cosmic atmosphere, it adds a layer of romance that will tug at the hearts of many, “you make the darkness disappear/I feel found when you stay near/I know where I am when you are here/my way becomes so clear.” Her vocals are breathtaking. The longing tone and the romantic build-up that it undergoes as it enters the chorus is fantastic. She flows in unison with the melody, effortlessly and beautifully. All of these elements are enhanced for the touching and catchy chorus, “when you’re gone/will I lose control?/you’re the only road I know/you show me where to go/who will drive me soul?” The bridge is infused with a guitar while she reaches some great notes and the new instrumentation continues on for the final chorus.
River does away with the space synthesizers and opts for a natural ambience. It’s still very electronic with traces of an electric guitar. The verses are bouncy and the chorus is an affair of bright synths and adorable vocals, “take me river, carry me far/lead me river, like a mother/take me over, to some other unknown/put me in the undertow.” The piano solo in the bridge is sublime, tender and it captures the peace associated with rivers. The final section has a grand air to it but then it drops all the elegant instruments for a piano-driven chorus that flutters in and closes the song. The album gets a darker production for the title track, The Listening. Opening with a low, heavy synth beat that morphs into buzzing beats and hard percussion, this is the most impactful song on the album. In contrast to the heavier melody, LIGHTS voice remains soft and it’s sweeter than before as she sings, “I never really ever know what to say/when all of my emotions get in the way/I’m just trying to get us on the same page (wish I could explain),” in a lush high tone. The chorus is a mix of fantastic pop beats and vocals. LIGHTS shows off her melisma as she holds the note at the end of the chorus wonderfully. The title isn’t actually said until the bridge and it’s the highlight due to the lovely lyrics, “can I let the trees do the talking/can I let the ground do the walking/can I let the sky fill what’s missing/can I let my mouth do the listening, the listening.” It’s quite a powerful message. This is the epitome of the album and it’s represents everything it stands for.
Ice is as upbeat as LIGHTS is going to get and it’s one of my favourites. Right from the intro with its quirky synth beats and angelic vocals, I was hooked. Video game-like beats fill the verses and her voice is so clear. She uses a slightly deeper register and adds just a touch of aggression to her vocals. During the chorus, the melody explodes into an energetic stomper and her quick singing is so infectious, “what I mean is, all I need is/just a little emotion/‘cause all I see is you not feeling/and you’re giving me nothing nice/I tried to do you right/why’d you have to go and turn to ice.” The bridge is faster and even more amazing as her voice dances through it, joined by a hard and buzzing synth line. This is a superb track and it should not be missed. My all time favourite track, Pretend, is the lone ballad on the album. It calls to the innocence of childhood that seems to be lost in the process of growing up, “once in a while/I act like a child/to feel like a kid again.” The electronic backing is really nice and it sets up a nostalgic ambience that will have you thinking back to your younger years. It’s such an easy song to relate to and the lyrics are so simple but they’re brimming with meaning, “yeah, when fights were for fun/we had water in guns.” LIGHTS’ voice is airy and breathy during the chorus with a child-like tone that’s also tragic, “it would be nice/to start over again/before we were men/I’d give, I’d bend/let’s play pretend.” During the final portion, the background vocals take it to a heightened atmosphere and it’s very serene. It’s childish and yet it’s the most mature offering, encapsulating all the great things about the album.
The Last Thing On Your Mind is a cute mid-tempo. It’s a nice listen and the composition keeps it lively due to the changing instrumentation. At first, it’s a music box-like synth beat with light percussion that leads to a subtle electro beat for the chorus where she performs with airy vocals, “sing the last thing on your mind/the last word on your breath/I’ll be the one to keep you, keep you at your best.” The second verse has a deeper synth line and the second chorus is louder, features a keyboard and she sings with more power. It continuously gets better as it progresses and the electric guitar that’s included at the end is a nice surprise. Second Go shakes the album up with its vibrant assault of synths. They’re toned down in the first verse and there is a moment where her voice doesn’t flow well with the melody but it’s a very minor issue because, overall, this is a catchy tune. In the second verse, she avoids the awkward moment and the echoing backing vocals make a huge difference. The chorus is fun, cute and her sweet vocals really pull you in, “give me a second go/don’t let me go alone/you saw me at the worst/you caught me falling first.” February Air is flawless. It’s one of the first songs I heard by her and I’ve loved it since. Her voice is at its best and I like the highs and lows it goes through in the verses. The chorus is chilling, it’s a winter wonderland and her high vocals are so pleasant, “my arms get cold/in February air/please don’t lose hold of me, out there.” During the bridge, which is my favourite part, strings are added to make the melody dramatic and LIGHTS comes in vocalizing the biggest notes on the entire album. It’s amazing, she sounds great and the song is a treat for the ears.
Face Up is a stripped electronic and motivating song. It’s a highlight for sure and LIGHTS works her magic again. Soft, melodic synths dominate the verses whereas the chorus features grand, uplifting synths that work with her voice to produce a smile-inducing anthem, “look at the people all around you/the way you feel is something everybody goes through/dark out, but you still gotta light up/you need to wake up, gotta keep your face up.” The choruses following the first receive a dash of acoustics that blend beautifully with the synths and the background vocals are gorgeous. I love the positive feel that comes out because it’s so contagious. Lions! is one of the cuter moments due to the giddy beats and chirping vocals. Although not as great as the others, it’s still decent and listenable. The verses are nice with their pounding synth and drum beat. LIGHTS’ vocals flow really well with the arrangement and the lyrics are good, “and when I’m at the edge of sorrow’s blade/show me how a heart breaks.” The chorus is a little weak compared the verses and it ends up being too similar to some of the other tracks. There’s nothing that really sets it apart. It’s a good song, it’s just lacking in a few places.
Quiet is way more interesting with its quirky synth and bass beats. Her voice is gentle, like the melody, and the chorus has a nice calming effect. Cute synths, water droplets and vocoded melismic runs all come together for a catchy result, “I could wait a thousand hours/stay the same in sun and showers/pick apart a hundred flowers/just to be quiet.” Her vocals at the end of the chorus are amazing and they have just the right amount of vocoder on them to make them addicting. It has all the right ingredients for a chill-out pop track. Ending the album is Pretend (Reprise) which shatters the focus on synthetic beats and brings LIGHTS down to earth with its entirely organic setting. While the electronic version has a yearning feel to it, the reprise is more of a lament. The piano, the sole instrument accompanying the songstress, is tender and LIGHTS holds her own, proving that she doesn’t need the vocoder/auto-tune. Her voice is emotive, passionate and absolutely beautiful. It’s just as excellent as the original and it’s a very interesting take on it. The iTunes bonus track, Up Up and Away, opens with an adorable twinkling melody and low synths. There’s a spacey feel to it and her vocals are really bright. The percussion in the chorus makes an impact as the volume increases and LIGHTS’ high register is great, “we are rockets in the sky/we are planets passing by/up up and away/forget me/go your own way.” The breakdown is ethereal as it becomes a concoction of a serene piano melody, dial tuning and echoing backing vocals. This is a feel-good song and its blissful melody is so catchy.
Conclusion: It’s easy to love LIGHTS due to her adorable vocals and earworm compositions. Her voice is the perfect match for the bouncy, cute melodies that make up the album. I love her voice. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but she’s expressive and she can hit some pretty good notes. It’s very distinct and there’s something about it that’s pleasing to the ears. The Listening is an excellent debut, full of catchy hits and great writing. The music is quite simple compared to most electropop but it’s creative, fresh and different. The childish air is a major contributor to its brilliance and the songs are anything but childish. They’re deep, honest, motivational and sometimes sad. It’s an amazing contrast that works and fits with the album’s themes of love and innocence.
Recommended: Pretend, February Air, Ice, Face Up, The Listening, Saviour, Drive My Soul, Pretend (Reprise) and Up Up and Away