Lights' fourth full-length album, 2017's sophisticated Skin & Earth, is a dynamically rendered concept album that balances a post-apocalyptic, comic-book inspired story line with an addictive bevy of user-friendly hooks.
A longtime fan of comics, Lights impressively taught herself how to write, draw, and produce her own six-issue comic book series while working on the music for Skin & Earth.
Subsequently, the album was released in tandem with the comic books, and each of the album's 14 tracks correlates directly to a chapter within.
But even if fans never check out the comic, there's nothing to stop them from enjoying the album, which features some of the Canadian singer's most emotive and powerful songs.
Helping her achieve this new level artistry are a handful of like-minded collaborators including producers Michael Abram Schultz, Iain James, Alan Wilkis (aka Big Data), Flor's Dylan Bauld, Purity Ring's Corin Roddick, and others.
These are soulful, open-hearted songs with a wide-screen production aesthetic that combines Lights' electronic inclinations with a textured mix of instruments from fuzzy, laser-beam synths and pounding beats, to razor-sharp electric guitars and floor-vibrating basslines.
Additionally, with the comic's conceptual story line informing the production, the album has a pleasing emotional arc.
As she sings on the swoony, R&B-tinged "Skydiving," "It all starts here/With a rush of blood to the head/And I feel no Fear." From there, Lights moves the listener along with cinematic pacing, touching upon the dancey, romantic uplift of "Until the Light," and the garagey swagger of "Savage" (featuring Twenty One Pilots' Josh Dun), through to the effusive pop of "Giants," and the poignant, Giorgio Moroder-esque closer "Almost Had Me." Along the way we get the smoldering En Vogue-meets-Grimes-sounding "New Fears," the yearning, falsetto-tinged balladry of "Morphine," and the whipcrack electronica of "Kicks." Taking nothing away from Lights' comic book ambitions, Skin & Earth works as a fearlessly mature, confidently articulated album with enough musical and lyrical gravitas to stand proudly on its own.