This is one of Anie’s album reviews. I’ve limited myself to one sentence per song.
Who Should Buy This: People who like poetry-inspired music, those looking for calming lullaby-type songs, introspective personalities, and everyone who has ears and a human heart.
Album: Midnight Machines
Genre: alternative, acoustic, indie
Music Rating: 8/10
Lyrics Rating: 9/10
Sounds Like: Imogen Heap, Kate Bush, Sky Sailing
One Sentence Summary: The acoustic companion of her electronic album, Little Machines, this album is a gorgeous, soothing musical expression of hopeful nostalgia which also includes two new, previously unreleased Lights tracks.
Best thing About this Album: The lyrical construction of every single one of these songs is easily one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve been blessed with in my many years of musical appreciation.
One thing I wish was different: This is a tricky one, because if I had heard this album in isolation I’d say that I wish there was a bit more catchy, hooky vibe to the music. As it is, Lights has already given us that exact thing in the original versions from “Little Machines”. The two albums serve equally valuable but very different purposes and emotional intention. Each one contributes much to the musical experience, so I’m really not sure what more I could ask for here.
Before we start, let me talk a bit about this beautiful gem of an album to give you a foundational understanding of what is going on here. This is a pretty different sort of album for my personal tastes, but I had to write about it because: amazing. This is an acoustic album with 75% of the songs being acoustic versions of selected tracks from her previously released “Little Machines”, featuring only 2 new songs. For the sake of this review, I’ll be writing as if I had never heard the original versions of these songs (or I will try to anyhow), but be aware: these are not the traditional format for most of these songs. As a secondary sidetone, it is also worth mentioning that the vinyl edition of this acoustic album is breathtaking and undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous vinyls I’ve ever encountered.
*New Songs: 2
This is a playlist of all of the songs from the album that will automatically play through the whole album. To skip to a particular song, click on the menu icon in the upper left-hand corner.
1. Up We Go
Setting the tone for the entire record, this song comes out of the gate with unusual but very present lyrical structure and a calming fingerstyle guitar with a message of perseverance and looking forward to brighter days ahead.
Can’t not talk about: I know I’m not supposed to compare these to their originals, but: WOWZERS!!! I think that the emotional impact is even greater when you are leaping across such a huge chasm of differences in musical perspectives.
2. Same Sea
This might take the title as my favorite track of the album with its conceptual connectedness, gorgeous strings, perfection in the form of cellos, flawless vocals, and lyrical content that makes me want to weep from exposure to its overwhelming beauty.
Can’t not talk about: I cannot tell you how happy I am that she got a string section for this album. It was 1000% worth it just for this one song.
3. Follow You Down*
Keeping the same styling of guitar and musical tone set up by the previous tracks, this song deals with the topic of friendship and human connectedness, speaking about the depths that you would go to in order to help a friend.
Background story: This song was originally written for a movie which ended up never being released. Lights was really disappointed because it was one of her favorite songs she’d ever written, so she had been looking for another opportunity to release it. This album provided the perfect opportunity!
This was the first song that I heard from the album, and the thing that convinced me to stop and take note of the haunting beauty, poetic artistry, and conceptual brilliance that Lights has the gift of weaving through her songs, this one articulating aspirations and ambitions.
Can’t not talk about: This track has the unusual offering of being both relaxed and reaching, giving off an aura of both intimate and epic.
5. Don’t Go Home Without Me
Marking the first deviation and venturing out onto a slightly different musical branch, this track features a chorded piano, a light strumming guitar, and the familiarly beautiful string section while evoking a forward nostalgia pondering growing old and dying with the one you love while looking back on your lives together.
Can’t not talk about: For a song about dying, the romanticism is quite overwhelming, but how could it not be with those vocals?
6. Running With the Boys
This song seems to be a living, breathing embodiment of nostalgia and innocence with amazingly whimsical and yet structured lyrics to give legs to the magical music of childhood dreams of wakefulness.
Can’t not talk about: That SNARE though! Also, vocals at 2:36 = 😮 *Jaw drop* And, what the harmonies!? So good.
7. Head Cold*
Tentative musical beginnings with a singular guitar begin to thaw as strings join in and gorgeous vocals hit amazingly introspective intervals with minimalistic lyrics that tell of overcoming adversity.
Background story: In the winter of 2013 Lights was trying to get to a songwriting session, but she had one very unyielding problem: her van was snowed in and frozen over in a block of ice. (She’s Canadian, y’all.) She quickly realized that if she stood there thinking about how impossible the situation was and how stuck she was, she’d never get anywhere. The only option was to slowly start chipping away at the ice until she got down to the root of the problem. What a beautiful metaphor! A couple hours and a borrowed shovel later, she did in fact get to her songwriting session, and this song came about later that night.
8. Muscle Memory
For the first time, the guitar takes an entirely backseat as the open percussion and low strings take over, laying a foundational frame for the spectacular melody of the vocals about loving someone long after they have left and how that disrupts the automatic response of routine.
Can’t not talk about: “Guess love is the response of the body it haunts”
Conclusion: Between the mind-blowing genius of the lyrical structure and conceptual content, and the enchanting power of otherworldly vocals and harmonies, I am entirely uncertain what I would deem to be more instrumental in bringing about the beautiful artistic experience that is Midnight Machines.
Denotes my favorites
* Denotes new songs
Click here to read through Lights lyrics (including all the songs from this album).