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The ability to reinvent yourself takes talent, without a doubt, both because it requires enough skill to remake your persona and enough courage to let go of who you were before. Lightyear, the brand new electro-pop baby of Lauren Zettler, is the product of such talent in action. Lightyear combines stark, popping electronics, warm, bouncing basslines and Zettler’s own airy vocals, to create a sound that’s both human and intangible—filled with space and feeling. It’s strong music that addresses vulnerability while revering strength, in the great tradition of Emily Haines and Patty Griffin.
“A Lightyear is an unimaginably long period of time or space,” Zettler says, “it’s incomprehensible and limitless.” As Lightyear, Zettler herself has no limits without the pressure of attaching her everyday identity—her name—to her music. She decided to adopt the name during a period of transition, when she realized that “things just didn’t feel right.” She decided to make a big change even bigger. The songs grew from
this transition, which was both an ending of many things and a return to her roots.
Zettler was raised in Indiana by scientist parents. Although she tried to “make [her] parents proud by taking chemistry,” classical piano was what really stuck, and what led her to Berklee College of Music in Boston. She took a break from the piano after graduating, but Lightyear finds Zettler returning to writing on her native ivories, and she is understandably at home with them. The resulting songs rely on piano-built melodies
draped in starry keyboard accents and pounding electronic drums.
“It Beats” is a song about how even when you know you need everything to be different, you can rely on the fact that your heart can be trusted and will keep on beating. It might seem like a tried and true theme—trust yourself, everything will be okay—and it is. Zettler draws her songwriting inspiration from such classic pop composers as Billy Joel and Elton John, neither of whom were strangers to themes of the heart, but her lush
instrumentation makes the tunes more than just love songs. “Home” is another such example. Zettler once again takes the form—the break-up song—and adds her own twist, both through a driving guitar line and swirling keyboards and through her philosophical look at something so sad and simple as being absent and present at the same time, disappearing from someone’s life but knowing you’re still there.
Lightyear is true to its name. The songs are filled with space and sound that’s bright as light, and they all take on a shape that’s much larger than just their lyrics and arrangements. They pull from themes of change and heartbreak that are without a doubt familiar to everyone, and tap into that feeling you always forget about until you’re in it again. The feeling that everything is open and your life seems to be made of nothing and capable of everything at once.