One of the things that people tend to tote as a reason for liking alternative music is storyline. Not everyone wants to listen to 100 songs in a row about heartbreak. So people look to concept albums, or albums that cover themes outside the mainstream. Albums that talk about mental illness, isolation, death, or politics tend to be the most well-known concept albums. It is fairly rare for an album to have a concept that is an abstract idea, something pulled from a source outside of the artist’s life. There have certainly been examples. David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” as well as, more recently, My Chemical Romance’s “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” were well-known and well-received albums that followed distinctly fictionalized storylines.
These albums were heralded as outliers, separated from the rest by an entirely different kind of artistic vision. They were, if not better than their contemporaries, at the very least a step sideways, distanced from the crowd. With “Skin & Earth,” Lights is redefining the idea of a concept album, and ensuring that she will be the mark others aim for from now on.
Not only is Lights releasing an album centered around the idea of a post-apocalyptic world, but she’s also releasing an entire comic series based around the same world that is intertwined with the plot of the album. Both the comic book series and a slew of cinematic music videos expand the world of the album, pushing the boundaries outwards step by step. Everything is created with the purpose of sharing as much of Lights’ vision as possible.
The bio for the Skin & Earth comic series reads:
Skin & Earth is a story of a girl looking for hope in a hopeless world. Caught between romance and cults, gods and mortals, and just trying to find a good borscht, Enaia Jin is lead down a dark path by new lovers that reveal a twisted fantasy world and her own true nature. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where corporations rule, this adventurous tale of loneliness, deceit and self-discovery begins here!
Set in a post-apocalytic world which can be explored on Lights’ Skin & Earth Instagram account via an interactive map, En is closely modeled on Lights herself, complete with the vibrant red hair. The key difference? En has the freedom to broach topics that Lights on her own would never consider tackling. Things like sex and fighting are new options on the table, options that Lights explores with gusto on “Skin & Earth,” in a way that she didn’t feel comfortable doing before.
Of course, no album can be completely conceptual, or there would be no real emotion behind the lyrics. Lights strikes the perfect balance of personal and abstract. If you were unaware of the concept behind “Skin & Earth,” the album still stands alone as a collection of catchy, mainstream-piercing alt-pop. But if you’ve looked into the world behind the songs, Lights has provided a veritable treasure trove of lyrics full of double meanings and hints about Enaia Jin and the world she inhabits.
Both the comics and the album are impressive works on their own, but combined they create an incredibly comprehensive and fleshed-out world. “Skin & Earth” is what every concept album should strive to be: a story told in such a way that it envelops the listener and delivers them to another world that feels as real as this one. A true work of creativity and imagination, that still feels fresh in an oversaturated musical landscape.
Favorites: “Skydiving,” “New Fears,” “Fight Club”
Similar to: Pvris, Broods, Zella Day
Listen to “Skin & Earth” here.
Related – Album Review: Pvris’ “All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell”