Review Summary: A great collection of simple, catchy pop songs that should be enjoyed individually rather than collectively.
It seems that I have a lot in common with Valerie Poxleitner: we’re both Canadian, we both share an April of 1987 birthday, and we’re both extremely attractive. She, however, recently won a Juno (i.e. Canadian Grammy) for “New Artist of the Year”, and she has legally changed her name to what I can only guess is her favourite plural noun. I’m still currently hard at work on accomplishing those last two.
Lights’s debut album, The Listening
, comes only a year after her successful Lights EP
, which boasted a small collection of dreamy and catchy synthpop. Fans of Lights’s will be excited to know that The Listening
is more of the same, but that proves to be both a good and a bad thing.
It’s pretty hard to deny the talent that Lights has to produce a catchy pop song. Every song on this album has something infectious about it, and whether it is Lights’s terrific voice, the catchy hooks that are embedded into every chorus, or the layers of subtle sounds churning in the background, you’ll find yourself going back to listen to the same song over and over again. While some songs may be stronger than others, there really isn’t any filler to be found here, as every song holds its own and has something to offer.
And while there really isn’t a bad song on the whole album, there are some quirks here and there with her debut. For one, there are issues when it comes to variation: other than the more upbeat “Ice” and the funky “Second Go”, most everything else sounds too similar. If you’ve heard one Lights song, with her voice soaring over a mid-tempo thump sporting subdued strings and synth, then you’ve mostly heard them all. This makes listening to the entire album front-to-back rather tedious, as all the songs tend to run into each other and sound like a giant pile of mush.
I also can’t help but feel some disappointment with the slight lack of new content on the album. Four of the six songs that appeared on the aforementioned EP have been slightly modified and slapped on the album, and while they are great songs, I can’t help but feel the inclusion was unnecessary. Also, the album includes two versions of “Pretend”, which gives me the impression that she had a hard time filling the album with all-new material.
In the end, I might actually have another thing in common with Ms. Lights: we both are suckers for a well-crafted pop song. Despite the slight lack of new content and the tendency for the songs to sound the same, there is quite a lot of talent to be heard on The Listening
. The real character of this debut can be found from listening to the songs individually and shelling out their substance by listening to them over and over again, because there is something in every song that can be enjoyed. I guarantee that after a listen or two of any song, you will be enveloped by the simple but catchy structures, the layers of plush astral sounds, and her beautiful, soaring voice. While the album isn’t very innovative and surely isn’t perfect, it’s a quality release that any fan of pop should absolutely check out.