LIGHTS - The Listening (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


The Listening (2009)

Underground Operations (Canada) / Doghouse (USA)

Listening to Valerie Poxleitner's creative vehicle, LIGHTS, I can't help but feel a little bit swindled. Somehow, some way, she has been associated with the underground music scene, even being featured on Silverstein's last album. Yet, actually hearing The Listening coming through my speakers, I couldn't begin to tell you why such an association is made. If hardcore in the punk context means "music by people like us" this is definitely music by "them." This is vacuous and disposable pop that offends the ears at every chance; I feel like I have to take a shower in acid-spitting bees with chainsaw teeth in order to remove its stench from my existence. This isn't bad because it is pop music, though -- it is bad because it is pure drudgery to listen to.

Single and album opener "Saviour" is one of the slightly less offensive moments on the album, in that it is catchy in a kind of high-tech Taylor Swift sort of way with its simple bleepy and bloopy electronics. Anyone remember Billy Idol's album Cyberpunk? No? I didn't think so. Songs like "Drive My Soul" and "The Listening" are down-tempo numbers that rely too heavily on Poxleitner's vocals and without memorable vocal melodies or hooks, they become absolutely coma-inducing.

Listening to the upbeat "River," which has a slight '80s bent like something Modern English may have done, I get the feeling like it isn't the actual songwriting that makes the majority of this album so bad, but the execution. Some of the synth tones used on The Listening get thrown into parts where they have absolutely no business being. Take, for instance, halfway through "The Last Thing on Your Mind," when this piercing tone comes ripping through an otherwise trippy little diddy. "Ice" starts off sounding like a half-decent Postal Service ripoff but the chorus turns into a cacophony of sounds that assaults the senses. I think LIGHTS needs a better producer to help edit out these annoying kinks.

I've read a lot of praise for the vocal ability of Poxleitner, but to be quite honest there isn't anything that distinguishes her from hundreds of other American Idol wannabes, and her lyricism leaves something to be desired. She isn't a bad vocalist by any means, but she isn't good enough to carry an album, which is the role The Listening seems to want to place her in.

If you want some good electronic pop I suggest checking out the latest Sounds album released this year for a vocalist that can really command your attention with instrumentation that is equally engaging. The Listening will just bore you to tears -- that is, unless you have absolutely no interest in music.