Canadian singer/songwriter Valerie Poxleitner is Lights and she’s already won a Juno Award thanks to her soft, soothing brand of dream pop. Now, with the U.S. release of her debut LP, she hopes to take her brand of spacey pop to American audiences.
Managed by Jian Ghomeshi, the guy who “annoyed” Billy Bob Thornton, Lights is a marvellous performer. Her minimalistic style, played through a wall of synthesizers and keyboards, is charismatic and instantly listenable. Vocally, Lights is reminiscent of Vanessa Carlton with elastic, chillingly subtle edges mixed tenderly with the ability to crank out a few big notes.
While some electro-pop singers stumble with pretentious arrangements and hazy self-indulgence, Lights is simple, cute and intelligent. She is the epitome of the D.I.Y. musician, piecing songs together in the backs of vans or playing with a keytar during live shows to add some adorable mobility.
Lights is the type of performer that could easily be dismissed as a magnet for the headband-wearing teen girl set, but that would be a mistake. While there’s a certain pillowy-softness to every word that she sings, Lights is the consummate performer and is sharp as a tack.
The Listening showcases this through its 13 tracks, illustrating how simple, sweet-sounding tunes can go a long way in producing genuine emotions. Even with a healthy dose of vocal effects, Lights proves herself to be a surprisingly good singer, too, and this helps out a great deal in making the record something well worth noticing.
“Saviour” boots things off with a nice nod to New Wave and a whole lot of swirling keyboard effects. She handles the vocals well, delivering a cool offbeat tempo to the verses before releasing it all for the chorus.
“Drive My Soul” is a winner with its U2-esque anthemic quality, while “Pretend” is an absolutely charming piece about what it would be like to start our lives over again and what it would be like to feel like a kid again.
“Ice” allows Lights to sneak in an endearing reference to a certain early 90s rapper, demonstrating that there’s a little bit of subtle cheek to the Canadian synth-pop princess.
The Listening is a pleasing piece of work. It is endlessly sweet and comforting, making the most out of Lights’ gentle vocals and creative but simple song construction.
Lights is certainly a Canadian star on the rise, piling up accolades for her live performances (which include stellar covers of songs like Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight"), her individual style and her delightful, humble demeanour. She’s an energizing presence in a pop world that seems to turn on posturing and insolence rather than substance and lovability.