The second album from Lights sees Canada’s synth pop superstar venture into new directions. The girl who I saw bring her synth-pop from the bedroom to the stage with music to light up faces and hearts as she broke onto the Canadian festival scene in 2008, now has more than just her synth and keytar ‘Russel’ for back-up; namely, limitless studio resources and equipment, while in the wings stand collaborators Holy Fuck and Shad and major label backing from Universal. Lights second album is definitely different to her first, but it was always bound to be new somehow. For an artist that can be considered a poster-girl for being ‘self-made’, it’s hard to argue against the artistic progression and her own right for creative exploration and development. But it’s the level of experimentation and new sound that may come as a surprise: Siberia has a strong dubstep influence, while also wandering into genres of dream pop, minimal, dance and even noise.
Straight from the off, crunchy, wide beats contrast with keys that slip-slide like glacier ice; cool to the max. The crunchy beats continue into the next track and throughout the album a gritty vibe is maintained. Contrasting with the harder, dirtier sounds, the lyrics are generally happier and in-line with the upbeat-but-crunchy dance vibe of the album. Standing out among the minimalist electronic dance grit is “Peace Sign”, a colourful, ascending dance-pop anthem. Fans may not all take to the dub-step and grit, but Lights’ distinct voice and trademark synth remain key ingredients throughout the fourteen tracks, providing enough familiarity for any original fans who are sticking along for the ride.
In a genre where so much of the music is plastic and bombastic, Lights’ lyrics and voice remain her strongest asset because they are palatable, and in the more open and personal moments they also come across with a level of sincerity that is rare in pop. The moving, breath-drawing delivery of “Cactus In The Valley” is Lights at her best, singing about love and heartache while accompanied by a simple but effective synthesizer keys. Highly emotive. Some more songs like this would have been welcome and better showcased Lights strengths as a singer and songwriter.
Here’s a shocker: I never thought I’d hear alcohol and hard drugs referenced openly on a Lights album, but Shad’s lyric ‘It’s why we overdose on cocaine’ as he drops verses towards the end of “Everybody Breaks A Glass” changes that. Elsewhere, the distorted, stuttering nine minutes of electronic instrumental bedlam that caps of Siberia is a bigger and better surprise: “Day One” is sweet primal noise, a track that could easily be passed off as work of your favourite noise band such as Godspeed You Black Emperor.
It’s that final track that leaves me the most curious: maybe Lights next album will continue where this one leaves off and signal her next direction… Lights as an experimental electronic noise merchant?! Stranger things have happened.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Internet links: Lights