Los Angeles alt-rock trio Nico Vega set their sights on pop stardom, enlisting multiple producers to help craft their hooky second album, Lead to Light. In the five years since their 2009 self-titled debut, they've added a pair of EPs to their catalog that saw their evolution from jagged-edged, guitar-based rockers to more of a pop act with an attitude. As before, the entry point for Nico Vega is the intense voice of singer Aja Volkman, who vamps, howls, and coos throughout this varied set. Tapping Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds to co-write and produce the fun, riffy lead single "I Believe (Get Over Yourself)" along with the Blondie-esque party anthem "I'm on Fire," it would seem they've traded in their snarl for some pep in search of a radio-friendly hit. Much of Lead to Light follows suit with "No Home" and "Back of My Hand," tracks produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, M83) that tap into the contemporary pop Zeitgeist and succeed decently with a couple of the album's more enjoyable and melodic songs. Tim Edgar produced the remaining eight cuts, several of which hark back to their edgier-sounding early work ("Fury Oh Fury" and "Lightning"), while others like "Good" and "Lucky One" lean more on low-key, atmospheric moodiness. Nico Vega have made a serious stab at chart success by frontloading Lead to Light with several pop-leaning tracks by hotshot producers, but their desire to please everyone makes this a fairly uneven effort.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger