Canada has given us many things. Some of these things were terrible, like Nickelback or Justin Bieber, and some of these things were simply amazing, like Billy Talent or maple syrup. It is a country that is famously ripped by every American sitcom ever, probably because America knows that Canada is a better country than the USA– sorry USA, but facts speak louder than the loud opinionated shouts of angry rednecks. Canada has endured countless insults and terrible jokes by repeatedly offering us musical gems whether it is Comeback Kid, Mo Kenny, or one of my personal favourites: Lights.
Lights is, perhaps, better known for her multiple vocal features on several metal songs such as “Don’t Go” by Bring Me The Horizon, “The End” by Silverstien and “Open Water” by Blessthefall. She is also probably better known for being Blessthefall frontman Beau Bokan’s wife. It rather saddens me that people often overlook Lights’s career as a musician, considering the fact that she has won several Juno awards, because she is a truly phenomenal musician. She has the capacity to take electropop and synthpop, which are two different genres for some weird reason, and mash them together in a way that truly works. Electropop being the more upbeat and radio friendly genre and synthpop being the rather kooky and obscure genre that Arcade Fire (thanks Canada) tried to pass off as their recent album Reflektor and what Foster the People based their new album on – the more you know the better right?
With that being said, Lights’s music takes the catchy hooks and infectious electronic drums of electropop and combines it with the soaring synth tones of synthpop that wash over you like waves lapping at your feet. She creates the kind of music that you can easily dance to, but can also be used as accompaniment when you need to withdraw from the world and have some downtime. Her latest album, Little Machines, is her follow-up to 2011’s Siberia and a lot has changed since then. She got married and had a child, so one would expect her music to change slightly now that she adopted the mantle of adult responsibility. The changes to her music are subtle. The use of auto-tune is almost completely erased compared to the amount used on her debut album The Listening and the synth tones have taken a slightly darker edge as she tackles much deeper and more personal themes than before.
However, there are moments when Lights decides to break away from her traditional subdued sound and launch into the upbeat world of electropop. “Up We Go” is the best example of this. Lights launches into reflection upon her life with the lyric of “Everyone here is ready to go/ its been a hard year” opening the chorus but she immediately contrasts it with “From down this low / it is only up we go”. This is all done while an electronic drum sequence goes bezerk in the background and the synth blends with the bass to create an entirely alternative take on what a catchy pop hook should sound like, but it is enough to lift your spirits and make you pick your chin up and soldier on.
There are other songs like “Don’t Go Home Without Me” that don’t possess that same insane electropop energy, yet are still uplifting and upbeat songs simply because of the lyrical content, although the underlying drum beat and synth lines do soak the song with a sense of happiness. The entire song is pretty much a tribute to Bokan and how much she loves him and desires to stay with him forever. It is a song that warrants a departure from professionalism to quote from Despicable Me: “Its so fluffy I could die!”
However, Little Machines is not all sunshine and rainbows. There several songs that take on a somber atmosphere as the synth tones creating a brooding atmosphere and Lights tackles some serious themes and reflects upon her life. “Portal” is one of the songs. It sees Lights dealing with the fact that Bokan is often away for long periods of times when he is on tour with the Blessthefall but it also sees her coming to terms with this and accepting that the love of her life may often be away.
It is moments like this that makes Little Machines so remarkably brilliant. It really exposes Lights’ talent as a song-writer in ways that Siberia or The Listening could never do. It seems that Lights has come to understand the fact that she is growing up and she couldn’t keep creating music that was all fun and games – so she created Little Machines and it is honestly her best album to date.