Lights takes her 2014 release of Little Machines, a fist-pumping, electric and anthemic pop record, and completely flips the tables and chairs, throwing the plates and glasses at the walls, and breaks down everything in the room into a stripped and sincere acoustic retelling entitled Midnight Machines. Every vocal line stands at the forefront of the production allowing the listener to hear every articulation and inflection into a well-orchestrated and swelling experience few acoustic albums can deliver. Although most of the tracks are recreations, with the exception of “Follow You Down” and “Head Cold”, what will not be lost is Lights’ superb vocal abilities without the aid of monstrous production to hide behind, and what the listener is left with is human and nostalgic.
Acoustic albums are normally considered space fillers, released just to fill the gap between albums. However, with Midnight Machines, Lights shows us a maturing side to her as an artist not previously seen. Her airy vocals, beautiful arrangements, and precision make for both a soothing and passionate record. Every word that came from the pop-heavy album of Little Machines is now makeup free, without gloss, and without the enhancements. The album is Lights at her truest self, and what remains intact is her ability to sound ethereal with layered harmonies that float and echo behind a clear vocal presence as cellos and various string accompaniments build in the background.
Normally when pop artists of the same vein (Ellie Goulding, Lorde, or Foxes) drop an album, the expectation is that of a fully blown production with heavy, dance-driven tracks reflective of the artist’s sound and brand image. The listener prepares to be wrapped in the creation of atmospheric effects on top of pulsing bass lines and infused with some sort of cosmic-swirling supernova of notes. However, with Midnight Machines Lights goes against the grain and recreates her previous record with an entirely different, yet calming tone perfect for both an early morning or late night listening experience.
Nothing is lost on Midnight Machines, albeit not the expected pop route, Lights shares a record that recreates those passionate expressions of bliss, sadness, and that unforgettable you-and-I-against-the-world feeling consistent with her reputation. One of the highlights of the record is the bridge in the song “Meteorites”. Throughout the track, Lights follows a calming acoustic tempo, but the song takes a turn towards the end with an unexpected sweeping of stacked harmonies that crescendo and culminate into a chilling finale.
Her two primary and rousing singles from Little Machines, “Up We Go” and “Running with the Boys” are perfectly rearranged and stand out almost as entirely new songs. The lyrics take on a different interpretation than the fun, pop versions from the previous record. Both tracks deliver a message that is often lost from crowd-chanting singles as it redirects the listener to a deeper translation that is both encouraging and wistful.
Midnight Machines recreates and crafts a different story than its parent Little Machines in an honest, candid, and hair-raising acoustic album that both fans and new listeners can appreciate.
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Pop | Warner Bros.