Out today, ‘Skin & Earth’ from Canadian singer songwriter Lights, is a concept album with a difference. Accompanied by a comic book series of the same name, written and illustrated by Lights herself, ‘Skin & Earth’ is an ambitious project which nonetheless hits the mark.
Lights has been a mainstay on the Canadian pop scene for the best part of 10 years now, and has won JUNO awards with each of her albums ‘Siberia’ (2011) and ‘Little Machines’ (2014), winning “Pop album of the year”. She’s also been awarded gold for her abum ‘The Listening’ (2009).
Lights’ new album, ‘Skin & Earth’, was preceded by a comic book series, which has been three years in the making, telling the story of a girl named En (Enaia), which is based loosely on Lights herself. She says of the series, which was first released in July this year,
“As of now there are only six issues, and that completes the record. But I don’t think it’ll end there. I’m not just letting it go.”
‘Skin & Earth’ opens with a delicious instrumental, ‘Intro’. At only 34 seconds long it’s an ethereal, almost whale-sound effect, trancelike and ethereal, and electronic vocals. It quickly segues into ‘Skydiving’, which is a quite beautiful alt-pop, almost rap. Lights clearly has enough years in the business to know it’s essential to keep pushing the boundaries in order to stay at the top of her game, and it’s tracks like this which have put her where she is.
Track 3, ‘Until The Light’, features sparse instrumentation, which is perfect for Lights’ voice. Leading into ‘Savage’, a more up-tempo track, we’re reminded of Kate Bush, and even fellow Canadian, rocker Karen Stever. It’s here in the fourth track we get into the stride of the concept album, whose theme is post-apocalyptic in nature.
‘New Fears’, song 5, is our favourite on the album, and opens with simple instrumentation. Lights’ voice is bluesy and strong, with fierce, crisp vocals. ‘Skin & Earth’ covers a wide range of musical and vocal styles, and is a brilliant showcase for Lights’ talents.
‘Morphine’ is haunting and sombre, with a melancholy flavour, and bell-like keys. Slow and moving, the track is the perfect follow-on from ‘New Fears’ and marks the pivotal half-way point of the album. It’s a contrast with ‘We Were Here’, which opens with ocean-like sounds, and finger clicking, before launching into an upbeat pure pop track, heavy on the autotune but not so much that it feels completely unhuman.
Track 8, ‘Kicks’ is again a proper pop song, and if you didn’t know who sang it, you could easily think it was Britney Spears, Kesha, or Miley Cyrus. In fact, we feel it could have very easily have found its way onto Kesha’s album, ‘Rainbow’.
We recently previewed ‘Giants’, the 9th song on ‘Skin & Earth’, and we’re still super impressed by the hugeness of this track. It’s monumental and anthemic and we love it, and was the perfect choice for lead single. This is followed by ‘Moonshine’, which definitely has pop sensibilities but is combined with a more electronic feel. From ‘Kicks’ onwards, we can feel a more positive aspect to the album – light at the end of the tunnel – and the lyrics of Moonshine reflects this as well: “Moonshine – this is my time”.
‘Interlude (webs)’ signifies we are getting towards the end, and the Celtic sounds remind us of the the whale-like sounds in ‘Intro’, as well as the beautiful bagpipe-like instrumentation.
‘Magnetic Field’, again feels to us like something which Britney Spears could easily have sung. There’s a lot of really nice magnet similes in the lyrics, like “drawn to you like precious metal”, “you balance me out”, and it’s pretty much the perfect pop song.
We’re going to break the first rule of ‘Fight Club’, and talk about it. The penultimate track has a very Asian feel to it, from the opening lyrics to the echo-y instrumentation. Lights reminds us of why she’s at the top of her game, with strong vocals and punchy lyrics. Nice rhyming like “Its getting heavy you already know/Crack in the levy is about to blow” and false rhymes such as
Throw my hands up cos I had enough
It’s going through my head like it always does
Come on show me what you’re made of
All these sacrifices for love
…show off her talent as a songwriter – on paper the lyrics shouldn’t work, but mathematically they do and it makes ‘Fight Club’ a memorable and very catchy track.
‘Almost Had Me’ is the perfect end to a fantastic album. Anthemic and huge, with soaring choruses and pounding rhythms, it ends on a high and leaves us wanting for more.
‘Skin & Earth’ is out now, available here. You can find Lights online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her official website. Fans outside Canada can visit Lights’ store for comics and other merchandise, while Canadian fans should visit here.