Lights’ How To Sleep When You’re On Fire is a vibey, instrumental space jam

The album’s ambient soundtrack provides comfort for late-night sadness

Lights’ new album removes focus on her voice and redirects it to her composition skills. Courtesy of Lights

By: Michelle Young, Staff Writer

Canadian electro-pop artist, Lights, recently released the album, How To Sleep When You’re On Fire. Starting out in the 2006 MySpace scene, the artist has evolved her sound throughout the years. Clean and electronified earlier works like The Listening turned gritty, experimental, and bass-distorting in later works such as Siberia. Rich and synthy, Little Machines solidified her style and provided a stepping stone towards the versatile, genre-blending Skin & Earth. 

All of these albums — and their acoustic counterparts — have positioned Lights’ vocals as a strong feature in her work. However, the most recent release, instrumental synthwave How To Sleep When You’re On Fire, is a departure away from this feature. Instead, it demonstrates her strength in bare composition while successfully creating an atmospheric release that listeners can delve into. 

The album starts slow, with gently layered synths that turn uptempo to create a track that feels like floating in the galaxy. The second track, “ExoSkeleton” picks up the pace — its rich beats and electronified hymns retain the album’s ethereal atmosphere. “SadBoy” is uplifting and ambient; chords quickly whirl to create a sense of lonely intimacy. “DarkMode” too, provides a kind of sad, late-night comfort in its upbeat synthesizers. 

After the series of fast-paced songs, comes slower “GreenTxt.” Unlike the smooth texture of the first tracks, “GreenTxt” is grainy, with pitter-patters of rain hidden amongst keyboards. How To Sleep When You’re On Fire reverbs throughout and songs blend into one another easily — each track has a clear beginning, musical climax, and slowly fades into the next track. 

“Softeeth” continues the trend of melodious, soothing synths mixed into whispers to create a mesmerizing and hypnotic track. The last piece, “PalmTrees” is the longest song, spanning seven minutes. It’s gradual and takes about two minutes for the track to start progressing in its composition. While it holds a certain sadness, it provides comfort in creating a sound that captures what it feels like to spend time with yourself — especially relevant when we’re all isolated from one another. 

The album feels like a hybrid of Lights’ pop and acoustic releases: it features an electro-pop sound that successfully meshes soothing guitar chords to provide a feeling of peace. Upon release, Lights wrote that she made the album “over the last few weeks of sleeplessness.” How To Sleep When You’re On Fire will leave you dreaming with the stars, serving as the perfect album to sink into before bed. 

How To Sleep When You’re On Fire can be enjoyed and bought on Bandcamp — all proceeds (after PayPal and Bandcamp fees) will go to Black Lives Matter Vancouver.