Lights - Midnight Machine

by Jessikah Hope Stenson

You probably know Canadian musician Lights from her 2011 track Siberia and her album of the same name. In my mind, this was the release that got her known on a global scale and revitalised synth pop in the music industry. Before Lights combining synth and pop on such a brash scale it was hardly popular yet soon after Lights started making a name for herself the likes of Tegan and Sara jumped on the bandwagon and completely changed their style to fit this new trend.

Lights (born Valerie Anne Poxleitner) has lived a well-travelled life both geographically and emotionally which I believe is evident in her lyrics, such as Midnight Machine’s opening track Up We Go. She sings, “Everyone here is ready to go / It’s been a hard year and I only know from down this low”. This maturity adds a deeper meaning to Lights’ creation than the likes of Zayn Malik and Carly Rae Jepson who undeservingly dominate the pop scene these days. Lights’ lyrics are bold, create and unconforming – I mean, she’s not afraid to confess her own faults to thousands of people and not make her lead single all about sex. By the way, Lights isn’t just her stage name or nickname – she legally changed her name, showing just how far her ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude stretches.

Just like when Lights released Siberia and then an acoustic follow-up, Midnight Machine is the acoustic follow up of Little Machine. She transforms six of eleven tracks into unrecognisable acoustic songs which stand on their own as a solid release and also introduces two brand new songs. Follow You Down, one of these newbies, is cute and quirky but nothing hugely impressive. Put it this way, I can see it disappearing without anyone noticing. The typical and basic guitar riff with predictable vocal melody is the furthest thing from fresh or gripping you can get.

Having said that, signed at age 15 and now 29, Lights has literally spent almost half her life as a musician and it really shows in the acoustic reworking of her best tracks. Running With The Boys transforms from a gentle, warming tune into an upbeat, catchy success within its ninety seconds and Muscle Memory ties the album up sweetly, leaving a satisfying, calming finale with the incorporation of strings and powerful, raw-sounding vocals.

My personal favourite right from the first listen had to be Meteorites. It was the only song that stuck out to me as special. As it builds to a poignant chorus, Lights’ vocals are layered, adding the oomph required to provide a subtle punch. Without you even noticing, this song will grip onto you and I don’t just mean it will stick in your head, it will fall into every tune you hum and every lyric you absentmindedly sing in the shower.

“We are gonna see greater heights They’ll put our names up in neon lights Rolling volcanoes in the night Glowing in the dark like meteorites.”

Although on first listen Midnight Machine seems like a dull, over-simplified version of an average album, I encourage you to listen to it with earphones in the dark. This album isn’t bad so to speak, it just requires a specific atmosphere and attention span in order to be appreciated, making it awkward in today’s mainstream culture. From one short snippet on the radio, I doubt you’d be hooked.