Canadian singer/songwriter Valerie Poxleitner Bokan (aka Lights) has built a loyal fan base with her emotive, often poetic electronic pop. On her third full-length album, 2014's Little Machines, Lights delves even further into a lyrical, poetic sound with a set of songs consciously written with her audience in mind. In that sense, Little Machines works as a stylistic juxtaposition from her equally as melodic, if more aggressive and sonically adventurous 2011 album, Siberia. With that album, Lights paired with Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh of Toronto's indie electronic ensemble Holy Fuck, to help her expand her musical palette. The result was a mature, electro-punk affair that proved Lights had grown beyond the twee, synth-and-folk artist she started out as. That said, she remained at her core a writer of anthemic, heartfelt songs and Little Machines finds her embracing this role with a renewed sense of vigor. Also, since releasing Siberia, Lights married Blessthefall frontman Beau Bokan in 2012, and a year later, the couple had their first child. All of this informs the album, adding to the sense that while Siberia may have revealed a more mature sound for Lights, Little Machines is, in its own way, an album of growth. Furthermore, with maturity often comes the sense that less is more, and certainly that adage applies here with Lights pulling back from the frenetic, blown-out layers of Siberia and focusing her efforts on immediately hummable songs produced with just the right balance of synth, guitar, and electronic beats. Cuts like "Running with the Boys" and "Muscle Memory" are still very influenced by '80s new wave, without ever coming off as retro. Similarly, with the exuberant "Up We Go," Lights finds a comfortable niche somewhere in between the dance rock of Paramore and the anthemic, electronic pop of Ellie Goulding. Ultimately, it's Lights' songwriting and her knack for marrying her grand pop inclinations to thoughtful and relatable real world emotions, as she does on the poignant ode to fidelity "Don't Go Home Without Me," that reveals this little machine has a big heart.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar