Since the beginning, it’s been clear that Canadian electropop princess, LIGHTS, has had something special. Starting with her debut album, The Listening, she infected the listener with her incredibly upbeat, unique and airy voice. Of course, this being her debut, there was still a lot of room to grow… and grow, she did. Now, with the impending release of her fourth studio album, Skin & Earth, she takes a bold step in a new direction. A captivating story, told through the eyes of a renegade and filled with twists and turns, she decided that this release needed to be more than just the music. Thus, her first concept album was born, along with an accompanying comic book series. Partnering with DYNAMITE, she is able to bring her love of “geek culture” to life, by releasing a six-issue series, completely self-written and illustrated. The illustration part should be no surprise to her fans, as she’s always had a major hand in the artwork for her albums, in addition to her many paintings and drawings she’s always posting to her social media channels.
Meet Enaia Jin, a renegade living in a post-apocalyptic society which is under the control of a tyrannical government and holds a terrible secret. The population is under the spell of a “little pink pill” that was engineered by Tempest Industries. Not only do they hold control of the pharmaceutical industry… they are the go-to for press, agriculture, fuel and just about any resource that is needed for survival. The world is split into several sections: Pink Sector, Red Sector, Mount Hope, Industrial Ruins and Sanctuary Forest. Where the Pink Sector lies, holds society’s richest and most privileged individuals. Meanwhile, the Red Sector is home to the less privileged and drug-riddled of the world. A series of disappearances has caught the attention of “En” and her friend, who simply goes by the name of “Priest.” In the beginning, En and Priest begin to fall in love while they explore different parts of the world by the cover of night. Something ominous begins to plague En’s thoughts and comes to fruition when Priest decides that it’s best that the two sever ties. Heartbroken and lonely, En meets a mysterious stranger who helps pick her back up and dust her off. The rest of the story has yet to be revealed… but this gives you a good idea of what to expect.
The soundtrack to this epic is, quite simply, the best material that LIGHTS has written, to date. Through each of these 14 tracks, the listener will find themselves wrapped in and emotionally attached to the story and its characters. When an extreme emotion is meant to be felt, she makes sure that the music matches. For example, “Skydiving” is the point in the story where Priest and En go to “The Spot,” a beautiful place on the edge of Sanctuary Forest, and she realizes that she’s never been more in love. The mood to this track is incredibly upbeat, with a lot of soaring vocal parts and an air of happiness surrounding it. However, “Savage” takes a completely different turn, when he leaves her alone in the rain and cold. In this track, you can feel a lot of anger and betrayal, through the guitars and heavy drum beats (provided by Josh Dun from Twenty One Pilots.) The album, as a whole, has a way of making the listener feel good because it features a lot of the signature sound that LIGHTS has been known for. Even despite the darker themes underlying some of these tracks, the light explodes through the darkness. Tracks like “We Were Here,” which recalls a feeling of being a mischievous teenager, simply out to make a mark on the world, will identify with the listener’s more childish side. However, in this instance, the theme is more aimed at making a mark on the society that judges En and her friends, for being brought up in the Red Sector. There is this stigma that, because of where their roots lie, that they aren’t worth anything.
From the announcement of the album’s title, Skin&Earth, I always found myself wondering how it ties into the story. Now, having heard the album and diving deep into this incredible world that she has created, I understand that it is a metaphor for being one with your surroundings. As you listen through the album, you’ll notice that the places that are visited, the sections of the world that are revealed, all have a different musical vibe to them. “We Are Here,” “Kicks” and “Moonshine” are set in or around Sanctuary Forest, where En can be herself and not worry about judgement from others. Meanwhile, “Savage”, “New Fears” and “Morphine” take place within En’s mind, creating a new dimension to the music. “Savage” is a more aggressive track, while “New Fears” sounds like a 50’s or 60’s pop song, with a slow pace and a ballad-like nature. Tracks like “Giants” and “Fight Club” convey an air of hope, as these are the points in the story where En has decided that she’s had enough of the corruption and the silence to the dark matters that surround her society. There is a lot of experimentation in this album, ranging from dub step influence, venturing into some rock territory, there are some bluesy moments and much more.
In the end, Skin&Earth, teaches the listener to stand up for what’s right, even when no one else wants to speak of it. It teaches the dangers of toxic relationships and what it’s like to truly be an outsider, virtually cast out from society. LIGHTS has created something more than just music and words, here. She has created a truly magical, captivating world that is begging to be explored and, quite honestly, opens up major doors for her creative abilities. Be sure to check out the official music videos for “Skydiving,” “Giants,” “New Fears” and “Savage” below. Skin&Earth will be released via Warner Bros. Records on September 22nd and can be pre-ordered in a number of formats at the links below. As a bonus, keep your eye on this Instagram page as the story continues to unfold into late December, when the sixth and final issue of the comic book series will be released. LIGHTS will be on tour with PVRIS (Rise Records) starting 9/22, with a link to dates below.