Published Apr 08, 2016Midnight Machines isn't a brand new release for Lights (Valerie Anne Poxleitner), per se, nor is it a follow-up to 2014's Little Machines. Anyone familiar with the electro-pop artist's work knows that Lights releases acoustic versions of her heavily produced, synth-laden albums, and Midnight Machines is the third record in this tradition, featuring six acoustic reinterpretations from Little Machines as well as two brand new tracks. But just because it has an acoustic label slapped on it doesn't mean Midnight Machines channels a square-dance or a coffee shop — far from it.
The album kicks off with a mellowed version of "Up We Go," stripped bare of its synth riffs and recorded in a lower register with an acoustic guitar, which brings a much more reflective tone to the lyrics ("It's been a hard year and I only know, from down this low it's only up we go"). "Follow You Down" stands out as one of the new tracks, with the finger-picked guitar and reverb-drenched vocals channelling British band Daughter. "Running With the Boys" loses its '80s pulse but takes on new hues with fresh drums and a guitar solo subbing in for one of the synth riffs. And the second new song, "Head Cold," includes a string quartet and a catchy soaring chorus.
While it may sound subdued, Midnight Machines doesn't lose that ethereal yet urban sound that Lights' music embodies; ghostly harmonies, an extra bass-y kick drum and classic Lights-like lyrics referencing meteors, volcanoes, darkness and head colds make this anything but a folk album. If Little Machines made you want dance, its counterpart Midnight Machines is what you want on at the after party, when the lights go down and shit gets real. (Universal)