Review Summary: Whilst Light’s music treads unpredictable ground; too alternative for the pop crowd, too pop for the alternative crowd, it makes for a fond and dare I say, (excuse the pun) enlightening listen.
Lights (birth name Valerie Poxleitner) is like the little sister everyone wants. Innocent and unglazed by the pressures of the ‘real’ world, she gazes up at you wide-eyed and tells you everything’s going to be okay. And this is exactly what her debut long-player ‘The Listening’ communicates. It is in essence, a 43 minute long hug with a synth pop soundtrack.
Opener ‘Saviour’ is an arpeggiated cry for help (‘Soon or later, I’ll need a saviour’), warm and cosy with its catchy chorus and sentimental lyrics. Following this is ‘Drive My Soul’ which covers similar ground stylistically and lyrically; what it lacks in energy it makes up for in power and understated maturity; surprising, considering the tiny Canadian’s childlike image, with her tender vocals and her constant pre-occupation with science-fiction and video games, although it’s this exact juxtaposition that drives the album. This is most explicitly stated in the album’s sixth track ‘Pretend’, a sombre electro-pop number that finds Poxleitner stating that ‘Once in a while’ she’ll ‘act like a child to feel like a kid again’ and that she wishes she were a ‘little girl without the weight of the world’. Not the most guitar friendly of albums (although the odd six string does rear it’s headstock) this electro-pop-rock rollercoaster has not been written for the dance floor either, the emphasis is purely on the competence of her songs (evidenced by the way that Poxleitner regularly strips them down acoustically on her YouTube channel; even ‘The Listening’ itself features a reprised piano rendition of ‘Pretend’ as its bonus track) although it does have its more club-friendly moments.
Singles ‘Ice’ and ‘Second Go’ are party tracks that wouldn’t sound too amiss on 80s dance-floors (replete with flashing neon), with cute synths to compliment Poxleitner’s baby-voiced vox. However the majority of the album tracks are of a more indirect disposition; understated in their power, as poignant as they are radio friendly with their messages of getting back up on your feet even if it’s okay to feel sad every once in a while. In ‘The Last Thing on Your Mind’ Poxleitner tells the listener ‘Don’t think too hard, if you think it hurts that bad/Don’t talk about it, don’t let it get you down’ whilst ‘Face Up’ (a personal highlight of the album) reminds one that ‘You need to get up, gotta keep your head up’ and encourages the listener to ‘Look at the people all around you/The way you feel is something everybody goes through’. Whilst much of the lyrics may seem saccharine at face value, Poxleitner’s songwriting is informed by a subtle maturity seemingly at odds with her cutesy, cuddly image.
Whilst Light’s music treads unpredictable ground; too alternative for the pop crowd, too pop for the alternative crowd, it makes for a fond and dare I say, (excuse the pun) enlightening listen. ‘The Listening’ is in every respect a synth-pop album for a rainy day, and certainly one to look out for.
Stand out tracks; ‘Saviour’, ‘Drive My Soul, ‘Face Up’, ‘Quiet’