It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper album from LIGHTS, though she’s been plenty busy since releasing Skin & Earth in 2017. For one, that album was part of a bigger project that included a six-part comic book. She then spent time collaborating with the likes of Travis Barker and Deadmaus, as well as releasing a few non-album singles. Her fifth full album, PEP, was released earlier this year, and she has been touring North America ever since in support of it. It’s another album stylized in all caps (see Rex Orange County and Walk the Moon reviews).
The album starts with “Beside Myself,” which was also the first single, a song that’s reminiscent of her first album, 2009’s very great The Listening. It’s certainly more song-focused than some of the recent collabs she’s done. Perhaps that’s why it was chosen as the power cut.
However, she’s not done working with others, as the second track demonstrates. “In My Head” features Josh Dun off of Twenty-One Pilots. This is fun for several reasons. First of all, it’s a good tune. Secondly, there’s kind of a backstory. LIGHTS is good mates with Adam Young off of Owl City. Josh Dun, as a teen, used to hide his Green Day (and other artists’) albums from his folks. They tried to jam him with Christian acts like Reliant K. Reliant K are good mates with— Owl City! How fun! Back to the tune; it doesn’t sound very twenty one pilots, which is cool, and it lets Dun show off his percussion chops.
Later on in the album, LIGHTS does get together with a DJ, something she’s rather fond of, to deliver a tune called “Real Thing.” The track sounds exactly like a DJ was involved. The other featured artist on the album is fellow Canadian chanteuse Kiesza on a tune called “Money in the Bag.” It’s a rocky track that is ostensibly about a bank robbery.
The second single, “Prodigal Daughter,” sounds more like latter-day LIGHTS. With great hooks and a breezy melody, this should have been a hit. “Easy Money,” too, is a hook-filled pop gem but doesn’t seem slated to be single.
Another interesting track is “Jaws,” which demonstrates how 80s synthpop has influenced LIGHTS. The backing tracks are straight-up Yazoo-era Vince Clarke. Indeed, years ago, she kicked around the idea of doing a cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?” possibly with Arkells’ Max Kerman. That Hamilton, Ontario-based band was opening for her at the time. “Okay, Okay,” has a similar ‘80s vibe.
Speaking of covers, neither “Rent” nor “Voices Carry” are remakes of 80s tunes of the same name, although the former does echo Pet Shop Boys.
Overall, PEP has a much cleaner sound than previous albums and has enough variety to attract a wide range of fans, while still maintaining a consistent sound. Definitely an album that should be getting more attention.
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.