Ever since my first time hearing The Listening, I have always been a part of Team LIGHTS. That being said, it is always an anxious thing to explore one of your favorite artists’ newest work. With a few years and a handful of lifetime milestones between 2011’s Siberia and now, change was to be expected.
Luckily, what we’ve grown to love and enjoy from LIGHTS continues here, made stronger over these last few years while bringing together elements of both previous releases, as well as a few of the chances she took on the pacifying Siberia acoustic rerelease.
Admittedly, I couldn’t jump right into Little Machines in the same way I could with Siberia. Where the title track on the previous release energetically kickstarted the album with bright synth, “Portal” leans more towards “Saviour,” The Listening’s softer introduction. On first listen, the song feels better suited as a closer, but with each listen (and with “Don’t Go Home Without Me” already filling that spot, but we’ll get to that) it fits better and better, swiftly revealing LIGHTS’ growth as a musician rather than holding back.
Where “Portal” slowly starts the wheels spinning, “Running With the Boys” quickly picks up the pace while lead single “Up We Go” follows as a perfect addition to LIGHTS’ catalog. As the track’s final chorus cuts into the first notes of “Same Sea,” we’re carried between two of Little Machines’ brightest highlights. A standout up to this point, “Same Sea” has everything you’d want from a LIGHTS song – her soft, yet strong voice set to eerie synth and thumping drums, crafted together into a three-minute dance window.
There has always been a balanced tempo with the music she releases, and Little Machines is no exception. Along with the introductory “Portal,” which clocks in at nearly 4 and a half minutes, both “Oil and Water” and “Speeding” compliment one another, slowing things down to showcase her vocal range. Much like we heard on the cleaner renditions of her songs that Siberia: Acoustic gave us, we hear how successfully and strongly she uses her voice itself as an instrument.
A select few songs find a median between the darker, ethereal side and the energetic, electronic side. “How We Do It” stands out later in the album, and while its verses are calm and quiet, “Slow Down” packs a huge chorus.
Though I could probably add it into that previous category, closer “Don’t Go Home Without Me” is one that stands on its own. In every aspect, an argument could be made that this is one of her strongest tracks. Lyrically, musically, and vocally, LIGHTS shines bright here and caps off her album in grand fashion.
Like I confessed earlier, Little Machines took a play or two for me to fully digest. But by giving it the patience it deserves, it quickly grew. LIGHTS’ growth and maturation are heavily felt yet subtly present, leaving their mark without trying to fix something that wasn’t broken.
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Check Out: “Up We Go, “Same Sea,” “Don’t Go Home Without Me”
02. “Running with the Boys”
03. “Up We Go”
04. "Same Sea”
06. “Muscle Memory”
07. "Oil and Water”
08. “Slow Down”
10. "How We Do It”
11. “Don’t Go Home Without Me”
Written by Eric Riley