Thursday, June 4, 2015

Siberia | Lights



Canadian singer-songwriter Lights Bokan (née Poxleitner) dropped her third studio album last year, three years removed from her previous record's release. Little Machines returned to a lighter synthpop variation that her debut album thrived on, leaving her sophomore attempt, Siberia, in a class of its own. Siberia was a force to be reckoned with when it was released in the fourth quarter of 2011, and it has withstood the test of time and remained fresh nearly four years later.

Siberia revolts against the bright electronics - and the self-proclaimed "intergalactic" experience - of her debut album, The Listening. In turn, Siberia has made its mark as one of the grittiest synthpop records of the decade, if not the new millennium. Canadian electronic outfit Holy Fuck introduced the artist to the rough-edged synths and distorted drum machines that cover the entire album and contrast her strong soprano vocals. A shocking sonic transformation was the ultimate goal, though; the album comes to close with a nine-minute track titled "Day One," an ambient track of ugly, diminishing synths that was produced during the first day of experimentation between Lights and Holy Fuck.

The rough soundscapes offer Lights some competition, but she is still able to make herself heard and shine with confidence on even the loudest tracks. In "Flux and Flow," she nearly shouts over the sweeping, dubstep-inspired chorus, but delivers some velvet-smooth vocals over the equally-rough production of the verses. Even the two songs closest to ballad formats - the fan-favorite "Heavy Rope" and  the subdued "Cactus in the Valley" - are backed by the signature chunky synths, although "Cactus" offers a minimal backdrop that Lights can sing over with ease. However, other tracks, like "Suspension" and "Everybody Breaks A Glass," find her voice comfortably embedded in the madness, rather than begging to be heard above it all. 

The acoustic companion to the album, which features stripped renditions of ten tracks, reveals solid song bases beneath the speaker-blowing production. Bubbly melodies and wisely-crafted lyrics are Lights' true specialties, and her fans still showcase their "no weapon can sever the soul from me" tattoos and chant every word to "Toes" and "Timing is Everything" today. The magic of her lyrics lies in their flexibility; each song can be morphed easily to relate to a listener's situation with stories of unconditional affection ("Oh, you capture my attention / I’m anticipating, I’m watching, I’m waiting for you to make your move / Got me on my toes") and optimistic contemplation ("However much you've got on your plate, you're as good as you reciprocate / We all pretend to keep our tongue out of our cheek / Everyone's the fool they seek / We all go off the track and feel for our way back / Everybody breaks a glass").

Lights allured huge audiences online and in her native country of Canada with the sparkly synthesizers and squeaky, cutesy vocals of her debut, but she impressed those audiences with the jagged production and vocal acrobatics of Siberia. From the rugged synths of the opening title track to the final deteriorating moments of "Day One," the album's cohesive production grinds at listeners for nearly an hour without once getting stale. Her lyrical handiwork retained its charm in the transfer between styles, as did her personality. For Lights, each creative step towards the final product was sure to be challenging, but for listeners, the journey through Siberia is still a spectacular experience.

Siberia was released on October 4, 2011 under Last Gang Records and Lights Music.

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