August 7, 2020 Lights – Dead End (Album Review)
Should we deem her Dance Pop, Electropop, Alt Pop, Synthpop, or something else entirely? Ah, these pesky categorizations! Well, we don’t exactly know where to place her, and, frankly, nor do we care. Canadian tour de force Lights is a talented singer-songwriter, guitarist, author, and illustrator who made her debut on the scene in 2009 with The Listening, then followed this up with the exceptional Siberia in 2011.
Three additional LPs have continued to spread her talents across the globe, including 2014’s Little Machines, 2017’s conceptual masterpiece Skin & Earth—which accompanied the graphic novel of the same name—and, most recently, 2020’s instrumental How To Sleep When You’re On Fire, for which all proceeds were donated to Black Lives Matter Vancouver.
So we already know there is pretty much nothing that Lights can’t do with talent and heart. But she continues to prove this point on her latest, a remix album entitled Dead End, which arrived on August 7, 2020, thanks to Fueled by Ramen. The 8-song collection pairs the songbird with the talented MYTH (Falling In Reverse, I Prevail), aka Tyler Smyth of dangerkids. Together, Lights and MYTH produce a selection of three brand new tracks, heavy on the electronic elements, along with five remixes that inject thumping bass beats and EDM flourishes, recrafting the original material into something fresh.
The Dead End set opens to it’s titular track, a delicate sway injected with enough electronica to make it dancey and perfectly apropos of a remix collection, even if it’s brand new. Catchy and radio-ready, it details a relationship headed nowhere fast. Lights plays the role of the partner who keeps trying, refusing to admit that it simply was not meant to be. This struggle leads her into “Outdoor Sports,” thick with a Hip-Hop influence that undulates throughout.
Written before the pandemic but fully appropriate for our current times, “Batshit” tries to hold it together amid the chaos and ears deaf to reason. There’s an ‘80s vibe that billows across the waves of insanity, one that makes the overthinking and cabin fever feel like a daydream. It bridges the gap into the actual remix material perfectly, flowing into the glittering “We Were Here [Remix].” Like the bulk of the remixed offerings, the track first appeared on Skin & Earth. Originally set to a languid pace, here it is a bold amalgamation of a zillion layers, cinematic moments, and killer programming that work together to demand that you get up and move.
On “Fight Club [Remix],” Lights takes the Caribbean feels present in the original chorus and amplifies the gentle island breezes to present a sharper version of the track that is a perfect end of summer reflection on the travails of romance. Next, she mixes it up with “Up We Go [Remix],” a song that was originally a sweet little Pop bop located on Little Machines. Here, the remix shows the evolution of Lights’ vocals and the strength that she’s attained over the past 6 years. With the added elements, the song has more of a fierce punch than its syrupy sweet original. Either way, topically “Up We Go” fits brilliantly amid the issues of 2020, and feels like a wise selection for the musician who takes its meaning to a whole new level.
The atmospheric “Almost Had Me [Remix]” has an intensity in its electronics but loses some of the intimacy of the original. Still a wonderful song, the trade-off boils down to personal choice: whereas the infectious energy of the remix is a multi-layered experience that exhales heavy feels, the original is delicate minimalist intimacy. Similarly, “Savage [Remix]” offers a phenomenally impassioned vocal performance and escalates its boldness, though the bluesy spell of the original is somewhat lost in translation.
Ultimately, Dead End offers enough of Lights exceptional abilities to keep fans sated for a while longer as the talented artist puts together her next full-length of all original material. If the three brand new tracks are any foreshadowing, you can expect to dance, to feel, and to explore the ups and down of life and love yet again with one of Canada’s finest exports. For now, be content to dance and to hear Lights’ flawless vocals empower you to face whatever 2020 brings next. And so, in short, Cryptic Rock gives Dead End 5 of 5 stars.