Shedding LIGHTS on ‘Dreamstep’

When I listen to a new album for the first time, one of the first aspects that I look for is whether I can listen to it the whole way through and enjoy every song.

Canadian pop artist LIGHTS’ second full-length release, entitled “Siberia,” is one of those albums.

Starting with the title track, the signature sound of light, synthesizer-laden tracks comes to the forefront, as if it is LIGHTS’ way of saying that even though this a new album, she has still maintained the same sound that made her popular in the first place.

Despite the surface-level similarities, “Siberia” also contains many new elements and pleasant surprises. These additions only add to the experience and make the whole album more enjoyable.

The first and perhaps most obvious change to her sound comes with the addition of dubstep-esque synth patterns and downbeats, lovingly deemed “dreamstep” by none other than LIGHTS herself via her Twitter account shortly after releasing her first single, “Everybody Breaks a Glass.”

With the introduction of this semi-new musical direction, there are certain songs that highlight this change — for example, “Flux and Flow” is on the more hard-hitting end of the electronic-music spectrum. To compliment this style, LIGHTS uses soaring vocals to give the track a sense of scale but still doesn’t lose the ability to make you want to dance either.

Tracks like “Suspension” and “Timing Is Everything” highlight LIGHTS’ ability to create solid dance music in addition to her slower ballads without trading in lyrical content or her identity as an artist — quite a feat for a musician these days when lyrical content takes a quiet backseat to simple dance beats for mainstream consumption.

Even with her quickly growing popularity, it was a relief to listen through the album the first time and hearing that LIGHTS’ is still the same synth-pop artist that all of her fans have grown to love. In fact, her fan base is so dedicated that they went as far as to create a “World of Warcraft” guild named “LIGHTS” — even LIGHTS herself is a part of it.

Another unique element that LIGHTS utilizes in “Siberia” is Canadian rapper Shad, whose appearances on both “Everybody Breaks a Class” and “Flux and Flow” are implemented flawlessly and do wonders for the overall sound on both of the tracks and provide a great contrast to the soft voice of LIGHTS. Shad’s verses are both well-written and well-executed — the lyrics flow well with the meanings with the songs, especially with the overarching lyrical message present in “Everybody Breaks a Glass.”

LIGHTS, as with all of her previous releases, never fails to deliver when it comes to strong lyrical messages. I found that even with all her catchy synth hooks and chorus melodies, the thing that kept me coming back was the lyrical content. Lines like, “I don’t need fate to give it time, it doesn’t take pain to change your mind, not the sorceress, not the money, all my cleverness, all my cunning” in “Banner” and the simple, repeating line of “When I fall asleep, I feel you with me” in “And Counting…” convey a deep sense of emotion that LIGHTS’ voice is perfect for delivering.

Without a doubt, the most emotional and powerful song on “Siberia” is “Cactus In the Valley.” The somber tone and perfect instrumental accompaniment allow for this track to easily become a quick favorite among longtime fans and first-time listeners alike — lines like “Wipe the mark of sadness from my face, show me that your love will never change, if my yesterday is a disgrace, tell me that you still recall my name” highlight this tone. The sheer vulnerability that LIGHTS is able to convey through these lyrics and the entire song is deeply moving, and it is one her strongest songs to date.

Even with these sorts of diversions from her normally upbeat sound, LIGHTS remains successful at crafting an album that maintains a unified theme and is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. It’s impressive that this young artist can show such talent and creativity so early in her career, especially since she composes and plays all of her music herself, unlike many artists who simply do what their producer tells them what to do.

On that note, LIGHTS’ “Siberia” is not just an enjoyable listen. It’s an experience through the mind of a young, talented artist who has a message to tell and a bright future ahead of her.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5