Saturday, September 13, 2014

Little Machines | Lights


★★★★☆

Since the release of her last album in 2011, Lights Bokan (formerly Lights Poxleitner) has been quite busy. Within that time, she married fellow musician Beau Bokan, released a studio acoustic set of the songs from Siberia, and most recently, jumped into the world of motherhood when she gave birth to her daughter, Rocket Wild. After becoming both a wife and a mother, Lights has decided to re-claim her third title as a musician by releasing her new studio album, Little Machines.

Little Machines marks Lights' transition to a radio-friendly version of her already-refined synthpop style. This added sparkly glaze on top of the material on Little Machines contrasts the gritty dubstep-infused tracks on Siberia. The first single lifted from Little Machines, "Up We Go," gave us a glimpse at this noticeable change and is nearly three minutes of synthpop gold; the chorus alone begs to be played at full volume while you scream, "Everyone here is ready to go / It's been a hard year with nothing to show / From down this road / It's only on we go, on we go," at the top of your lungs.

The closest Lights gets to her previous darkened sound on this album are with "Slow Down" and "Oil & Water," which are only reminiscent of Siberia because they carry slightly-murky undertones; the vast majority of the songs on Little Machines focus on those aforementioned upbeat, peppy themes. The free-flowing "Muscle Memory" and "Meteorites" are topped with scintillating synths reminiscent to those found in the work of Chvrches and Little Daylight, without losing that special Lights touch. In particular, "Muscle Memory" also oozes brooding 1980s influences. In fact, influences from that decade can be heard periodically through the entire album, but are more subtle than expected; La Roux already perfected the ultra-80s synthpop throwback album concept.

Lights continues to play it safe on tracks like "The Same Sea" and "How We Do It" (please notice the fact that the title is a grammatical correct version of Katy Perry's "This Is How We Do"), but "Running With the Boys" and "Speeding" take her into the slightly unfamiliar territory of summery alt-rock with drums and guitar riffs mainly driving the tracks. The former track gleams with nostalgia as Lights sings, "Your hand in mine / Singing every song, loving every line / 'Til the night is done / Just like the old times," and the latter is a peppy, simplistic track that is just as carefree as its lyrical meaning.

Even with all of the synthpop anthems, ballads are not completely unforgotten on Little Machines. In fact, the album opens with "Portal," an intimate, slow-burning song that conveys the emotion that would be least expected from a self-proclaimed 'little machine.' The album also closes with a ballad, but this time it's a slowly-blossoming mid-tempo track called "Don't Go Home Without Me." This ending track seems to be a loving ode to her husband as she sings, "So if our bodies get ugly and our hearts stop beating / Our house is crumbling under me and our kids start leaving / I hope you know I appreciated you in every possible way."

Little Machines now makes Lights easily accessible to all pop music fans. The self-explanatory lyrics throughout the album make for catchy, surefire hits. The album's soft synthpop style is much easier to digest for finicky pop listeners and complements Lights' cute, high vocals (although she did have the vocal power to pierce over the rough, dark sounds on Siberia as well). According to her Twitter page, Lights can "tickle a gnarly synth," and she has fulfilled that guarantee by releasing her most impressive set yet.

Little Machines will be released on September 23, 2014 under Warner Bros. Records.

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