Album Reviews

Lights – Siberia

(Last Gang) UK release date: 12 March 2012

Lights teamed up with Canadian electro four-piece Holy Fuck to produce second full-length Siberia, and the benefits of that collaboration are dazzling. It’s a juxtaposition on paper – why would a light-hearted pop musician team up with one of the most experimental, noisy electronic producers currently active? Regardless of how the idea unfolded, as a result Siberia is a unique, and for the most part, captivating listen.

If there’s one thing for sure it’s that Siberia is a maximal listening experience. But while there’s a lot to absorb, impressively there are few signs of overproduction. Despite the record’s heavy EDM tendencies, Siberia comes across as a pop record, displayed impeccably through the contagious chorus of lead single Toes – which showcases some of the best songwriting Lights has to offer.

Experimentally, Siberia is a huge progression from debut album The Listening. While Lights can at times be the cotton-candy pop musician displayed throughout her debut LP, the gentle Canadian has proved that she is an artist with creativity and innovative ideas beaming through her bubbly pop veneer. The most explicit display of originality comes in the form of album closer Day One, which sounds akin to a Fuck Buttons or Tim Hecker production. Holy Fuck have clearly had a huge influence on the conclusive track, which is essentially an epic slice of electronic noise.

Siberia, it would seem, was written with the intention of sounding anthemic. While the majority of Lights’ debut album was jubilant and auto-tune heavy, Siberia offers a new-found punch that comes across with more impact and variety. Early comparisons to Owl City have been buried this time round; while Siberia still exerts a playful pop vibe, it’s delivered with much more vigour and, as a result, it’s likely to sport more long-term appeal.

Although instrumentally Siberia uses limited electronic elements fairly repetitively, Lights manages to maintain interest through subtle, yet careful changes to productions. Mid-album track Heavy Rope adopts a much calmer persona in contrast to the emphatic nature of the majority of the record, acting as an essential breather in a (for the most part) hectic 54 minutes.

If there’s one thing that lets Lights down it’s her vocal constraints. There are few examples of dynamic experimentation, as her soft voice is often overshadowed by wobbly bass and distorted synths. While one might expect an album influenced by bass-heavy dance music to be hard-hitting instrumentally, at times Lights’ delicate voice can sound absent in an ocean of intrusive electronic dance music.

This new-found experimentation has formulated an album with a much healthier shelf life than Lights’ debut, but a handful of these tracks are simply too dreary. Suspension and Fourth Dimension offer the same pounding drum samples and bass lines that the rest of the record flaunt – and when paired up with limited vocal fluctuation this can result in a fairly tedious listen. Lights is at times let down by this lack of variation. But if she could offer the same level of vocal audacity showcased throughout the instrumental side of her productions when returning to the studio, she could well craft an impressive third full length.

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