Lights - Little Machines

by Nathan Fidler Rating:7 Release Date:2014-09-23

Having released an acoustic version of her 2011 album Siberia in 2013 and given birth to her first child, it’s surprising to see Lights hit back with a full album so soon. The fact that she seems to work so tirelessly at her music is something which always comes across, and this album is another testament to her evolving style.

There are plenty of female artists around, more than ever in fact, but Lights is one of only a handful who represents more than a voice or a body; she is fully invested in her music as a musician. It’s something which makes Little Machines so catchy and tuneful, but it’s an album of two halves, with the first six songs so enjoyable that the last five come out a little undercooked.

‘Portal’, if you’ve heard the dub-pop sounds of Siberia, will catch you a little off-guard. A hushed and atmospheric sound with sci-fi lyrics which reference “cables and cords” and “your portal”, it gives you the impression of an imminent take-off. Singles ‘Running With the Boys’ and ‘Up We Go’ present a rush of euphoria, with guitars on the former ringing out in a similar fashion to the Krautrock sounds of The People’s Key by Bright Eyes.

Lights has always been able to sum up emotions of love and longing in a way which is both open, but alien to the world of music. ‘Same Sea’ builds a chorus which booms about a love literally undisturbed by the thought that all seas are connected, while ‘Muscle Memory’, in an 80s electronic soundscape, speaks of a love which is a “call and response” – with a classy, catchy and all-consuming melody to boot.

While all of the positives are there to see, you have to wonder if motherhood distracted somewhat for songs like ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Meteorites’, where the syllables are lazily stretched to achieve the imagery lyrically, putting a dampener to the second half of the album. The sound goes unaffected, however, with the kind of driving electronic music which she has perfected since her emergence as a songwriter.

Each album has been a subtle change of tact for Lights, and ‘Speeding’ shows off her vocal ability in the same distracting but engaging fashion Regina Spektor employs, making it the standout track. ‘Don’t Go Home Without Me’ feels a little lost at the end, but if she treats fans to another acoustic interpretation of her album then it could be turned on its head.

With her strengths in songwriting and melodies, Lights can flick between the electronic and acoustic, and it’s for this reason that she’s probably one of the most underrated female artists of this generation. An album which combines the two styles could just see her solidified as a true great, but this album will have to do for now – the next subtle shift could be the defining one.

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