Pretty satisfying when it all comes together, isn’t it?
If you count yourself a longtime member of the devoted Cult of Lights, prepare to fully lose your mind to Little Machines. This record – a gleaming, groundbreaking, generously tuneful slab of brightly hued 21st-century techno-pop brimming with songs so immediate and timelessly pure of heart that they feel like old friends on delivery – is going to make perfect sense to you in the best way possible.
If you’re new to Lights, no worries: you’ve picked a fine place to start. Little Machines represents a dream union of, and wallopingly self-assured expansion upon, everything the diminutive Canadian singer, songwriter and synth enthusiast has done before. Now you can dive into the back catalogue with informed ears.
That catalogue has set the creative bar pretty high, for the record. Lights’s last outing, 2011’s Siberia, was a strikingly ambitious sophomore LP that turned many a head not previously turned her way by introducing layers of synthetic dissonance and juddering dubstep bass into her signature, sweetly melodic electro-pop sound. It was a struggle to get Siberia past the gatekeepers and out into the world, but when it did get out there – to a No. 3 debut and gold sales at home in Canada, more than 100,000 copies moved worldwide and no small amount of international critical acclaim – it put Lights in the perfect position to conquer the planet with her next album.
The only trouble was the next album refused to come. Despite having Siberia’s artistic risk-taking validated by positive reviews and strong sales, Lights couldn’t come up with a note or a lyric she liked for the follow-up and descended into a bottomless pit of self-doubt. It’s astonishing to think that a musician who’s demonstrated so much flagrant promise and confidence from an early age might wind up stricken with fear that it was all over by her mid-20s, but that’s what happened: Lights was convinced she’d run out of things to say. It was a case, as she puts it, of “the worst writer’s block ever.”
“In the moment, I spent so many nights just bawling,” Lights concedes over a cocktail and a nibble at Sneaky Dee’s, the hallowed Toronto punk-rock eatery and live venue where she was once a beloved enough regular to have an entire dish – the “Cactus in the Valley” nachos – named in her honour. “‘What am I gonna do? I don’t have it anymore. I’ve just lost it.’”
By now, you’ve heard at least some of Little Machines, so you know that Lights had not, in fact, lost it. But it wasn’t easy getting to this place. Oh, no.