(feat. track – “Lions”)

If there was one major trend in music this past year, it was the rise of…well nobody seems to know what to call it.  I’ve seen folks call it “electro-pop”, but that kind of implies a more dance-oriented electro root.  Some have been using the old standby “synthpop” which I suppose is accurate, but implies a sort of retro-minded-ness that I don’t think is really present in the newer stuff, done mostly by kids who weren’t even alive in the 80s.  I’ve been going with the perfectly-descriptive-but-more-than-a-mouthful “hyperearnest bedroom emotronica”.

Whatever you want to call it, its been bubbling up in the underground for a couple years now (some favorites include the stitched-together-with-paperclips-and-scotch-tape Nickasaur!, boy wonder The Ready Set, the darker and grittier PlayRadioPlay!, and cross-genre explorer The Secret Handshake) and it’s clearly ready to break through. Two artists really busted out in a big way this year – one you’ll be seeing here in a couple days, and the other is Lights.

Part of the joy of “The Listening” is Lights’ pure hooky pop effervescence, but it’s equally rooted in the delectable squelches and blurps of perfectly-selected vintage synths.  She’s a studio nerd and it shows in the best of ways.  Of all the folks in the genre, Lights seems to be the one with the strongest ties to 80s synthpop, both the sparse bliss-blips of early Depeche Mode and OMD and the lusher sound of its mid-decade maturation.  Combine them with careful melodic craftsmanship and a handful of earworms, and you’ve got one of the best (and most addictive) albums of 2009.