Personnel: Lights (vocals, guitar, piano); Brodie Tavares (guitar); Carolyn Blackwell, Lenny Solomon (violin); Wendy Solomon (cello); Lynn Kuo (strings).
Recording information: Revolution Recording, Toronto, ON.
Photographer: Vanessa Heins.
Although primarily known as an electronic pop artist, Canadian singer/songwriter Valerie Poxleitner aka Lights has built a tidy collection of acoustic albums. Generally speaking, these albums are companion efforts released on the heels of her full-length studio recordings. Her third such album, 2016's Midnight Machines, follows up her Juno Award-winning 2014 effort, Little Machines. Featured on the album are six songs reworked from Little Machines, as well as two new recordings. During the recording process for Little Machines, Poxleitner was pregnant with her first child. Perhaps not surprisingly, that album contained a more mature, introspective tone with songs that spoke to Poxleitner's place in life: recently married to blessthefall lead singer Beau Bokan and on the verge of motherhood. Poxleitner carries the tone over to the acoustic Midnight Machines, and given the folky, intimate nature of the album, is able to wring even more depth and illumination from the songs. Also adding to the overall sophisticated tone is the organic instrumentation featuring piano, cello, Wurlitzer organ, and various woody percussion instruments. The instrumentation is especially effective on the spare, yearning ballad "Follow You Down," with Poxleitner's harmonized vocals offset by deeply bowed cello and delicately fingerpicked guitar. Consequently, cuts like "Same Sea," "Meteorites," and "Don't Go Home Without Me" have buoyant warmth that works well with Poxleitner's heartfelt lyrics. Similarly, tracks like "Up We Go" and "Running with the Boys," with their crisply rounded guitar work and positive-minded lyrics, reveal her knack for crafting uplifting pop anthems. Ultimately, Midnight Machines plays less like an acoustic afterthought and more like sincerely crafted work by an artist who has reached a new plateau in her career. ~ Matt Collar